I’m not certain how to start this post.
Nor am I certain, where I want this post to end up.
Let’s throw some paint on the walls.
This morning I got the opportunity to speak to one of my cousin’s. Now, my cousin’s are as close as I get to having older brothers. I grew up with them, and they remember me before I remember myself.
Our conversation was supposed to center around something I’ve been thinking about lately – Adventure. Adventure is something that’s been whispering to me around corners. Waving at me from the periphery of my vision. Prank calling my heart then hanging up when I take too long to turn towards the phone.
As we were leading up to the pre-specified topic of the conversation, We got waylaid by a foundational issue that I think has to preface any discussion of being able to chase adventure.
“For us, African’s, you know we listen to our parents until someone falls into the grave” – A friend.
This quote from a friend rang true to me the first time I heard it. I’m a first generation naturalized American Citizen. I was born in Jos, Nigeria and moved to America when I was one. I’ve only spoken English for most of my life. And yet, my worldview in many respects is rooted in Nigeria. Respect for elders was preached right along with the fact that God was watching. However, this respect for elders/parents culture can have some negative effects.
The culture that kids should be “seen and not heard” can lead to (in my experience) a tendency that these kids grow up to believe that their voice (internal) isn’t important/valid/right.
This may not have been terrible in times where things didn’t change quickly. Innovation isn’t important when going to the factory and getting a job will ensure that you’re able to raise a family and take care of your responsibilities. This invalidation of children’s –>adults internal dialogue/voice is dangerous when we inhabit a world that is changing quickly.
Some Parents, for all their good intentions, are not built for the future. Their job, in many cases is to become stable launch pads to vault their children into the future.
My generation found this out when we listened wholeheartedly to the advice that “College is the only way to a stable future” and found that the job market isn’t as enamored of college degrees as our parents were. Some of us discovered this when we watched our parents, who espoused the stability of real estate, get dragged down by bloated mortgages and houses that were multiples bigger than what they really needed. I’m sure we’ll see more as more of our parents approach retirement with very little in savings.
Fortunately or unfortunately, growing up often means internalizing the voice of your parents. This can be a great thing when you’re young and may have more testosterone than common sense. This can be a terrible thing when you’re older and have a well-thought out framework that is being short-circuited by old programming given to you by your ultra-conservative christian fundamentalist dad, or racist uncle, or conspiracy theorist mother.
The programming doesn’t have to be super-crazy or extremist. It can be as subtle as “you’re not quite as special as your siblings” or “You’re the middle child, you always have to be peacemaker” or “Your job as oldest is to be responsible for all your other siblings”, or “in our family, we don’t take big risks” or “Just do enough to not get noticed, you don’t do well under pressure”, “you should suppress parts of yourself (culture, sexuality, beliefs) in order make your life more comfortable.
And I’m not saying that you have to throw out everything that your parents ever told you. I’m just saying our parents are there to be our training wheels for the real world. You should examine all parts of the training wheels, keep the spokes that make sense (integrity, faith systems, etc) and throw out the prejudices, fears, and accumulated experiences that don’t match up with reality anymore.
Trust yourself. fly or fall.
“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.” – Psalm 1127:3-5