When It Comes To Stifling Creativity, We Can't Make The Same Mistake Our Parents Did

I had a conversation with a girlfriend the other day that basically sums up this entire article. I said, “Why did it take us so long to figure out what we wanted out of our lives?” She promptly replied: “Parental protest.”

Parental protest -- the unyielding NO of a generation of moms and dads that, with all the best intentions, simply refused to let us make our own mistakes.

From the time we are born until the day we leave the nest, the parental figures are always guiding, always lending their wisdom, lovingly protesting the natural expressions we as a generation are just now discovering it’s okay to explore.

All our lives, we heard: “DON’T color outside the lines"; "DON’T make such a racket"; "THAT isn’t music"; "THAT isn’t art"; "THAT isn’t a viable career option"; "HOW will you ever have any security doing THAT?!” And so on…

You know they mean well, and you aim to please. So we go along with the rules and regulations, occasionally stepping over the line and always learning that that kind of independent thought will most certainly be met with consequence.

We learn the rules, how to survive and the benefits of following the pack -- the etiquette of life, so to speak.

Ever-guided by mom and dad, we discover that our career ambitions are best left as a hobby and, with a heavy heart, we apply to secondary schools with majors in things like “business management” and “political science.”

Few people who majored in political science actually give a rat’s ass about political science and have gone on to pursue it in any way, shape or form.

Because most of us, the lucky ones, anyway, realize just how lost we are as we settle into our 20s. We recognize that we are a generation of late-rebellion, a mass of creative pursuits oppressed by all the guidelines we were prompted to follow from birth. You’re lucky to be lost.

Because if you can recognize that you aren’t truly living the life you were destined to live, you’re one step closer to that feeling of purpose, that zest for life – the evasive happiness-unicorn of our 20s.

As I sit here writing this Starbucks-fueled rant, at a table to my right sits a mother and young son; he looks to be about 8.

They’ve scored those two sweet lazy-boy type seats by the fireplace and the little boy is relentless in his efforts to drag the small table between them closer to him with his feet.

Clearly, he’s comfortable and his cookie is just enough out of reach that it might as well be on a table in Denmark.

I sympathize -- I’ve been dragging the chair opposite this table closer and further from me as I’ve needed things from my purse for the last hour. Smart kid.

Unfortunately for him, momma-dukes is on the case and, after several long-winded iterations of “STOPPPPP THAT," she finally snatches his cookie away and explains that if he can’t sit like a little gentleman and eat like “a normal person” then he just won’t get to eat his cookie.

Period. Not to sound over-dramatic, or to make some claim that we should let the kids of today run wild, but this is where it starts.

Here is a small kid with a creative mind who has a problem, he comes up with a creative solution, gets punished and learns that life will be easier if he just does as he’s shown and told. Another future lemming.

Our parents did it out of love. Certainly they felt that our quality of life would be better if we all ended up as doctors and lawyers -- financial security, a snazzy title, maybe even a corner office.

Some of us are not designed for that, and some of us are. The point is, there’s got to be a happy medium somewhere in there that says it’s okay if we’re not.

Our kids, if and when we start having them, need to know that thinking outside the box is golden, that going against the grain and being the oddball is going to pay off.

They need to understand that when they hear, “NO,” there should be a reason and they are entitled to hear it. These future creative geniuses need to be nurtured in their weirdness and encouraged in their rebellious pursuits.

Hopefully for them, when it comes time to apply to the next destination, they will do it with more self-awareness than we did.

Because we're a generation over-stocked on degrees we will never use and student loans we will never pay off, still searching for some way to get that cookie that doesn’t involve pretending to be someone we’re not.

Photo credit: Oregon Steel Head