3 things that I (sort of) understand now that I’m 25

After missing my flight over the holidays, I’m in Florida now spending time with my family. I’m happy to be here — but man, these people are weird. And as I’ve gotten older — especially in the last few years — I’ve started to see my parents and the elders in my family differently.

Specifically: I’ve started to understand that they are fallible and capable of mistakes. Even big mistakes.

I’ve also started to understand that even now, being much older than me, sometimes they are still uncertain of the correct choice to make, or how to handle difficult, unfamiliar, painful situations.

For instance, right now my parents are going through this weird quasi-divorce (they were never married…just together on and off for 20 years, and even engaged at one point). There’s lots of fighting, name-calling, etc. All the typical stuff you’d expect in this type of situation. Who knows how it will all turn out. Objectively speaking, though, there are some really interesting things at play here. This post isn’t going to be some depression rant (maybe I’ll make one of those later if the drop shipping business I’m developing this year fails.

But as I’ve stood a captive audience to family drama, I think a few things have become clear to me:

Thing #1: Sanity is just as valuable, if not MORE valuable, than love

Since I didn’t really grow up with my parents together, I don’t have an emotional attachment to their relationship as a couple. I just want them both to be happy — which means even if it’s not with each other. Objectively speaking, if they can find someone else to make them happy, I’m totally ok with that. I prefer it, actually. I find it odd that I don’t have more emotion attached to the outcome of their relationship — but I just don’t. Interesting.

My takeaway here:

I don’t like feeling all crazy and jealous, do you? And I have a carrying capacity for how much emotion intensity I can feel at once. I went through an emotionally turbulent time for a short period when Sara and I were trying this crazy open relationship thing which DID NOT WORK FOR EITHER OF US. I almost busted this guy’s car window. It was brutal.

(That’s an entirely different post, though….)

Anyway, what I’ve found is that I like to keep my mental/emotional space clean and focused. Love is important, don’t get me wrong. But so is sanity. OMG Mental health feels SO GOOD. We should value mental health/emotional stability just as much as we value love — if not more. And we should seek out people who bring us sanity, not constantly take it away. Y’all watch too many Nicholas Sparks movies.

notebook

 

ATTENTION WOMEN: I DO NOT WANT TO CHASE YOU IN THE RAIN.

(Side note: I actually did like The Notebook. It made me feel a weird little lump in my throat, but I pushed it down.)

Thing #2: Adults are mostly just big kids — and we often act like them

Just because we get older doesn’t meant that we grow up. And sometimes, we just act silly, irrationally or straight-up childlike. This seems obvious when you say it out loud, but dig a little deeper. Usually when we see someone that we look up to or admire behave in a particular way during a stressful situation, don’t we often assume (perhaps even subconsciously) that their behavior is the PROPER reaction because they’re “the adult”? I know have in the past.

It takes some serious growth to say “I love my parents, but I wouldn’t have handled XYZ situation that way.”

My takeaway here:

It’s hard, but try to be critical of the people you admire and observe them as objectively as possible. Now, when I say “critical” I do not mean disparaging, “holier-than-thou” or “know-it-all”, etc. I simply mean try to make genuine assessments of the circumstances around you and really discern what’s actually right from what just feels right at the time.

This is why I don’t take any sides in family drama. I’m like Switzerland: I’m on everybody’s and nobody’s side. Just chocolate and watches from this guy. Now of course, if someone’s physically threatened, etc, I’ll have no choice but to intervene. But other than that — when I see an argument, I try really hard to understand that there are two sides — both of which are equally convinced that their point (and theirs alone) is the sole beacon of logic. Kind of like two opposing terrorist regimes. Both people are ready to die for what they believe in. Because I understand that both sides are emotionally invested in their story, it reminds me that our primary motivator as humans is almost NEVER logic — it’s emotion. So I usually never pick a side.

Does this make me a scumbag?

 

Thing #3: People usually make the decision they think is best, based on the information that they perceive to be relevant at the time.

Notice that I didn’t say “based off the information that they have”? You can have all the information in the world to make a choice- but your decision is always based off the information that you deem RELEVANT.

My takeaway here:

There have been times in my life where I’d wished that I’d been taught differently, or raised differently. I had a great upbringing. A really great childhood. But of course there are some tweaks I would have made.

A simple example: For the most part, I don’t think my family valued EXTREME levels of excellence as much as some other families when I was growing up. They made the decision to help me build confidence in my abilities without pushing too hard for specific achievement. This lead to a lot of warm-fuzzies, and I always felts loved and cared for. But it also left me looking for some additional tools to perform at a higher level later in life.

I used to be a little bit mad about this. Now I realize that this decision wasn’t incorrect on their part. It was just the choice they made at the time — and it felt right to them.

Let me unpack that a little bit more before I get in trouble: I have many immigrant friends who were literally terrified to bring home anything less than an A+ to their parents. And even then — they might get asked, “97%? What happened  to the last 3%?” In school, I didn’t envy them. I always thought their cultures were ridiculously, unnecessarily anal.

On the other hand, I could bring home an 85% and I’d get warm milk and a pat on the back.

Now, to be fair, I did well in school. My parents didn’t have to worry about me failing. So well, in fact, that I earned my IB Diploma (anybody else in IB?), skipped almost 2 years of college and travelled around the world on scholarship. But those achievements were due to the fact that school was relatively easy for me, NOT because I was inspired to work hard.

Fast forward to now, and I’ve had to work RIDICULOUSLY hard on overcoming the psychological limitations that tell me “good enough” is acceptable (here’s one extreme strategy I used to overcome this mental block) and I’ve had to completely overhaul the way I think about my life and my career in order to start running with people in the top 1% of their fields.

But you know what I’ve realize in all this — you can only put so much onus on your parents for the way you turn out. Once you start developing your own critical thinking skills and start making your own decisions, it becomes your responsibility to sink or swim. It’s not fair to them or yourself if 20 years down the road you blame them because you’re not where you want to be.

Outside of abuse, etc — most parents are doing what they think is right. MOST of their actions come out of love. So view it as such, appreciate it, and learn to pull yourself up to the next level.

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Welp, that’s all I feel like writing.

Have you learned anything surprising about yourself or your family that you didn’t expect as you’ve gotten older?

Let’s talk about it in the comments. Share what you’ve learned!

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15 comments
Sherisa7
Sherisa7

I completely agree with the section on sanity. Both your mental and physical health are really so important. I think it's easy to forget about taking care of yourself. Especially as young energetic people it easy to just assume that everything is going well and that you can continue to do more and more. Or focus on taking care of everything or everyone else before yourself. I know I've learned this lesson the hard way...more than once. In the end I gave up my "extremely promising" corporate career and completely changed almost every aspect of my life. I went from spending 10 hours a day on the computer and multiple global conferences calls a day starting at any time from 7am to 9pm to not even owning a computer at all. In fact I didn't even open a PC for about 10 months...not even for my personal email, to pay bills or to go on facebook. It was a drastic change. Now I've decided to re-enter the 21st century. I actually bought a computer (just a cheap $300 one...who knows I might decide to through it out the window one day lol). Anyway sanity is definitely important so do what you need to in order to keep it because you won't get far without it ;) 

Surges
Surges

Great story! I feel the exact same way about always being seen as excellent in school although I was making A's and B's. Although thats not bad my work ethic had suffered and I didn't learn to study until junior year of college. Now fast forward to today (3 years after junior year) and I'm just now setting high standards for myself so that I can achieve what I want for my life and stop blaming my parents. 

practicalcivilization
practicalcivilization

Heart-felt post man! I can remember growing up and wondering why everyone around us wore certain brand name clothes while I couldn't get my parents to spring for them hardly ever. We were always well off and it was a mystery to me why we didn't have the superfluous things my little society deemed were "cool" or "necessary." Later I would learn that we were well off because of the wisdom and frugal nature of my parents. Funny enough, I COMPLETELY appreciate this aspect of my upbringing now and it is a pretty large portion of what I write about. Thanks for sharing some of your story Daniel!

Ole Loenberg Jensen
Ole Loenberg Jensen

Well, i can't really call this being up late, it's 10:30 am in scandinavia... anyway...


Its amazing how you hit a vibe similar to what i'm learning in life about now. I have always had too easy a time in school, so fighting for something, really putting your best in to something, is one thing i've never had to. but i can feel that i will need to do that in order to become successful - so now i'm struggling with learning how to struggle with anything difficult and come out on top.


Sanity being greater than love is not yet something i have fully experienced in live, but the fact that everyone in some ways are immature children, that's something i've known for long. I mean - if you just listen to the stupid shit some people - myself included - does, it is hard to doubt it.


Thanks for another amazing post, this time with valuable insights about life :)

owens346
owens346

I see im not the only one up lol. in growing up (im 22) ive learned that even though you can blame someone for your upbringing, talking will get you nowhere, you gotta get up and change it yourself. the hard part for me is finding out how lol

mesawstudio
mesawstudio

Here in South Africa its almost lunch time so I am most definitely up and working! I'm 28 and a bit of late comer to this learning about parents thing. I mostly shut myself out and remained on a surface level when it came to their private issues until recently. I've realised that just because they are the parents does not mean they don't want or need our advice/support/help or even push in the right direction.There comes a point when the tables turn and the parents need the children as the kids needed them when they were young and naive. The world changes and not all adults learn to adapt continuously to that change and then the 25 year old son or 28 year old daughter need to go and lend a hand and make the parents feel secure and confident about the decisions they are making. Even if your parents didn't really do that for you growing up (mine always question the validity of every decision I would have to make which in turn makes me doubt myself a lot)! But I'm the SANE adult now and I will do what I think is right. 


Thanks for a great post! 

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

@Surges That's awesome, man. Any specific strategies that you've used to help you set higher goals and execute? We'd all like to know.

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

@Ole Loenberg Jensen Thanks for jumping in, Ole. I agree, fighting for something instead of always getting it easily is always a hard wake up call. Any specific examples from your life?

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

@mesawstudio WOW! That's extremely detailed and thought-provoking. Thank you for that. I'm also coming to the realization that parents need kids as much as kids need parents. Did you have a specific situation lately where you suddenly realized this, or was it a gradual realization?

practicalcivilization
practicalcivilization

@Rich20Something @practicalcivilization It's not so much of a big deal now that I live in Springfield, MO. I grew up in St. Louis which is a bit more wealthy and this translates into having more shiny things. But I do get some puzzled looks when I tell people I don't have a T.V., own fewer than 300 items, etc. Haha, I usually am amused if people aren't OK with it. But if they want to discuss I'm always happy to back up my theory!

mesawstudio
mesawstudio

Was definately a specific situation that made me realise I just have to change my attitude towards my parents. they are getting older and sometimes clarity is not their strong point. They were having a lot of communication issues which no one including them knew how to deal with. This isn't really something new but it was breaking point. I encouraged them to go for counselling (and that seeking help was not a sign of weakness) and It in turn pushed me to go for counselling just for communication skills.