Remember what it was like to be young, before working for 20+ years, free of battle wounds or scars, young and ambitious, ready to conquer the world and live happily ever after?
Sometimes it seems like that was so long ago and as we watch the young people in our lives try to make their way into the adult world, it’s hard to watch them make mistakes and even harder when they point out to us all the things they think we did wrong along the way.
Sometimes the things we say and the lessons we try to teach may feel harsh to our mostly unwilling pupils, but we do it out of love. Because we don’t want them to make the same mistakes we did. But maybe the lesson can only be learned the hard way: by experiencing the consequences first-hand.
When we are young (say early twenties), it’s easy to believe that we are going to go out into the world and not make the same mistakes our parents made. We would never dream of breaking up a family. We think people will want to hire us because we have a great education and have earned a place in the workforce. We would never take shit from anyone in the workplace. We plan on our working our way up the corporate ladder without having to worry about any glass ceilings. We think “what’s so hard about managing your money?” and wonder what the big deal is all about.
Here are some words of wisdom we of the older generation would like to pass along:
- Don’t spend it until you have it.
- Credit cards are an evil necessity. Try to pay your balance in full each month.
- Avoid borrowing money. It may be very tempting to borrow a little money from a friend or a relative for something you think you have to have now – but something more important could be waiting for you just around the corner: a car repair, doctor bill, etc.
- Pay your bills on time, every time.
- Make a budget and stick to it. Leave yourself some wiggle room for unexpected expenses.
- Know yourself and what is important to you. These things should also be important to the person you love (but they don’t have to be equally as important).
- Find someone who will love you fiercely and treat you kindly. Love them the same way.
- Passion is important. If you are telling yourself that it’s fine if you don’t have the passion as long as you have everything else, you are just kidding yourself.
- Life is too short to waste with someone you are not madly in love with. Move on.
- You don’t have to be with someone to be happy. Enjoy your own company.
Life, work, and school:
- Do what you love.
- Do what makes you happy, not your parents or anyone else.
- Accept that your parents are not perfect and have made mistakes. Some of these mistakes have consequences that can last a lifetime. You don’t have to remind them – they know what they are.
- Divorce is not pretty and mistakes are made by everyone involved.
- Learn to forgive.
- Forgetting is the hardest part. While it may seem that we are holding grudges or not letting go of the past, it’s because some wounds are so deep that sometimes they bleed again when we stumble and fall and try to pick ourselves back up. Be patient with us and give us a hand up.
- Accept responsibility. For your own mistakes. For your own education. For your own happiness.
- Take care of yourself. Get your annual checkups. Go to the dentist!
- Surround yourself with people and the things that make you happy.
- There will always be regrets. Try not to dwell in them and instead learn from them.
Speaking on behalf of parents of the twenty-something generation, I would like to say that yes, we love you, and yes, we will be there for you when you need us. Do us all a favor and don’t expect us to treat you the way we did when you were a child. You are adults and have enormous abilities and resources available to you to help you get an education and live your life. Remember, many of us are still paying the debts associated with having a family, whether that family is still together in the traditional sense or not. Parents must be allowed to live their own lives too.
Speaking for myself, it’s not often that your second chance at love turns out to be the kind of love that you’ve waited for all your life. I intend to treasure it, relish every moment of it, and share it with my children.
Life’s a short, precious gift. Savor it.
And, oh yeah: drink lots of water!