I get lots of emails and questions from young people <I don’t think they know I am old>.
I rarely give advice <I kind of believe (a) as a non-involved participant it would be difficult for me to truly understand the situation well enough to give anything meaningful and (b) it is the responsibility of the adult who is involved and (c) most often they just need some perspective … not advice>.
But I do answer a lot of questions about us adults. Why we think the way we do and why we do some of the things we do. Mainly in a business environment scenario but sometimes young people just want to know why adults do the things they do. In general … we older folk confuse the fuck out of young people.
And, in general, they wonder why they have to explain things to adults … things that they believe adults should kind of already know <and how tiresome it is>.
All that said. A couple of things. First is that most young people just want to have time to explain <and by the way … if we listen … I most often find that there is a nugget of wisdom within the explanation>. Secondly … I tend to believe we older folk forget some things about the youth <kids and young adults>. Mainly we forget that young people are actually better … and possibly ‘smarter’ … about some things. Aggravatingly so.
Say what ?!? Better? Yup. I really believe we forget that young people have a much higher capacity to create than adults.
Ok. Maybe not create as in … uhm … create <make things>. They have a greater capacity to create as in imagine … and imagine possibilities.
And they do this despite the fact we tend to pigeonhole them as ‘unlearned & inexperienced’ which leads us to place their ‘possibility thinking’ into the fantasy side of the spectrum of imagination rather than ‘practical imagination’ which we tend to associate with adults.
<pause to sigh here>
In general … that is maybe a little silly on our part <as adults> and most likely pretty unpractical.
And it is a little inconsistent with regard to how we treat the youth. We tell the world “teach the young to imagine” publicly … which <by the way> … suggests that as we grow older our imagination skills should improve and attain ‘excellent’ status. Heck. We should be creative imagination machines by the time we reach adulthood.
Well … oops … not so much.
We older folk tend to actually get worse at the whole imagination thing. Many of us, in fact, reach a “we suck” status in imagination. What happens? The young slowly but surely ease into the realization that the world is limited because we adults continue to SAY ‘imagine the possibilities’ but MEAN ‘imagine real possibilities.’
Yeah. Adults like to think of the world as one of infinite possibilities and using some incredibly imaginative metaphorical language <or motivational tripe> we create an illusion of something outside of simply ‘just get shit done’ <which is really what we want to sit our youth down and say>.
And we wonder why they want to sit down and explain things to us?
A lot of young people would like to sit us down and say ‘whoa, wait a minute.’
<but using some cool contemporary slang words which confuse the shit out of us>
They want to explain to us that we have lost sight of possibilities. Many of them want to explain to us <many times using a lot of words we don’t like let alone don’t understand> we suck at imagining things.
Look. They have a different perspective. It is possible we suggest it is immature or impractical or simply ‘not reality.’ I suggest maybe we consider it ‘different perspective.’
The youth and grownups <adults, old folk, curmudgeons, etc.> certainly have different perspectives about a lot of things … including but not exclusive to … how things work, what really matters, why is some behavior acceptable and … yeah … what is possible.
Sometimes they never meet eye to eye.
This … in pop culture … is called a ‘generation gap’.
It is within that gap <whatever you want to call it> in which young people want to explain things to adults.
The problem is many adults don’t want to go to ‘the gap’ … because … well … that’s not what adults do. Adults say ‘come here’ <come on my side of the gap> and lets talk.
While I could suggest that it is simply laziness for adults I tend to think it is more about having some difficulty swallowing a little pride … and a lot of fear … to enter into the ‘gap’.
Aw. I don’t know. I am not a psychologist. All I really know is that if we stepped toward young people more often … and not just be a bunch of grumpy old folk … and had the kahones to play the game on their field more often … they wouldn’t get so tired explaining things to us and quit trying to explain. Oh. And maybe we could accept some of what they do know more often as something meaningful <heresy … I know>.
We adults have all gone through childhood … we were all young <albeit it is difficult for some of us to remember all hose dinosaurs stomping around our yards>.
We adults do grow older & more mature <one hopes> but it shouldn’t mean that we need to grow up so much we lose sight of the way young people see the world … one of possibilities and hope … and kind of boundless energetic imagination.
While I enjoy young people and discussing & debating with young people … I absolutely know it is difficult. Even with my boyish charm <unlimited immature perspective on Life> and my attitude toward the young <I find it invigorating and enlightening> it can be extremely challenging to separate the wheat from the chafe when they ‘explain’ things. But the most difficult thing isn’t their thoughts and thinking and ideas <most of which are refreshingly thoughtful> but rather the thought/thinking/idea machine generator … the young person themselves. It does not matter if you are simply walking from one office cubicle to another or facing a classroom of young people … there may be shared ideas & thinking … but each one body/mind is distinct.
And it always reminds me of something that Lucas Scott said on One Tree Hill once:
People, in general, have so many gauges and dials that most of us suck at reading them. In fact … it can be a frightening confusing thing to us adults. Yeah. Go figure. We always think of the young as being frightened and confused … maybe it is us? <’I have met the enemy and it is I’>
<translation: most of us suck at reading other adult people well>
And you know what?
It is exactly the same with young people.
For the most part we suck at reading young people. We need them to explain things to us … which <by the way> suggests we need to not only listen to them … but respect their thinking.
It is especially challenging because we all know that people can look at the same thing but rarely see the same thing.
The young are no different.
It would be a shitload easier for us if it was a consistent set of dials and gauges all with the same readings. But it is not that kind of world <thank god>. Therefore … we adults always need to remind ourselves when dealing with the young that just because something doesn’t make sense to you that it isn’t important.
And just because it’s not important to you <or it may seem silly to make it important> that it will not be of some importance to anyone else.
And just because you have your list of priorities … your list is not the same as everyone else … no … not everyone else has the same priorities as you do <other adults or the young>.
Oh. Yeah. Please do not misread as ‘adults’ … all this stuff is relevant with young people too.
Each young person is special and distinct and unique … just as you are.
Each may have an ability that permits them to do something only they can do … which you may have forgotten pertains to you also <despite the fact you may feel like Life has bludgeoned and dulled you to a sea of sameness>.
We know things that they don’t.
We have experienced things they have not.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that all humans are a frightening mass of gauges and dials and registers … all humans … young & old … and it is tiresome to young people to remind grownups of that.
We need to be careful we do not deceive them … because if we do that too much … they will end up explaining to us how we destroyed their hope.