You know that saying, “What goes around comes around”? My parents used to send me news paper clippings. Like before there was ever a movie called, ‘You’ve Got Mail’. And just this morning I found myself reading yet another article that I was just sure my 19 year old away at college kid needed to read. But I already sent her one yesterday and I’m not sure what the weekly quota is for that sort of thing. And honestly, there’s a 50/50 (more like zero) chance it will ever get read, which is the same probabability that the kids that do live with me, listen to anything I say. When they actually sort of have to listen to me. Even as I’m passing them their scratch vegan pancakes. In fact, I’m not sure anyone actually listens to anything I say which is ironic since I’m a life coach. SOME people actually pay me to tell them what I think. It’s like having one of the most viewed TED talks of all time and your own kids don’t come to you for help with their oral book report. I’m sure Brene Brown totally knows what I’m talking about.
But as they say, nonetheless she persisted. I still send on the articles about how to be happy, how to stay off social media, how to not gauge your greatness by your GPA or the size of your leather pants and at the same time, not get stressed when your well meaning mom somehow always fits in, “So…how is school….?” Which is probably an underhanded way of really saying, “Please please tell me I’m getting my $100,000 worth.” Or maybe it’s saying, “Please tell me you’re eating (but not purging) and not doing drugs (and if you do, make smart drug taking choices) and that you’re going to every class and raising your hand (even if it is that silly little virtual hand on zoom) to ask very thoughtful and profound questions (even if you weren’t that kid in high school) and if your question doesn’t quite get answered, assure me that you’ll go to office hours” because we’ve all heard the parent talk about how when they went to office hours back in 1984, it completely changed their life and that’s why they have a big house, multiple cars and a 401K now. All that because that one time in May of 1984, they went to their professor’s office hours.
And to just take a commercial from the very long, run-on sentences, one of my professors asked me out in college. To his credit, he did wait until after the semester was over. But that didn’t happen during office hours. He actually called me on the phone. That was connected to the wall. Not sure the grades were in or not. Back then we had to wait more than a minute to get our grades. We also waited in long lines to register for classes which is how I made some of my friends. I’ll stop there before I tell you it was likely cold and I probably walked there. Backwards. I wonder if it’s too late to do one of those online professor review things.
It’s hard. And it’s a bummer. I’m sure someone smart can explain it to me all they want. How states stopped supporting the university systems. How people thought we all had to start pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. And how if you had bootstraps, you were probably elite or elitist anyway. How it became no longer possible for kids to work all summer to be able to pay for a semester or rent for half a year. If you are starting to do the math and if you are tempted to explain Econ 101 to me, don’t bother. I took that class in college. Twice. The long and the short of it, in my case, the long of it, is that college and university are so financially crippling for so many people that we can’t help but ask ourselves (and our kids), “Are the kids actually alright?”
And the short and the long answer seems to be, no. Because we deluded ourselves into thinking that if we could just get them to college, then things would be alright. But that was a lie we told them and ourselves. It was like the lie you tell yourself when you put on your skinny jeans that will only zip up if you lie on the cold hard floor and pull the zipper up with a pair of pliers from the garage; you can’t handle the truth.
And if you think this essay is mostly about either naming movies, song lyrics or famous lines from a movie, you may be right and you may be wrong.
Listen, I know the last thing you think you need is another essay telling you how young people might in fact have it harder than you did your freshman year at Cal State Fullerton in 1986, but it might be something some of us need to hear. It’s like the movie, “Jaws’. The other day as I was sitting in the dining area of my hostel the TV was playing ‘Jaws 2’. Now, if you’re my age, you remember the movie “Jaws’. An entire generation never learned to swim because of that movie and I proudly count myself as one of them. And it didn’t matter if you lived near a swimming pool because as far as I was concerned, if a shark that big could terrorize a small community over and over again, who’s to say it couldn’t show up at my local pool? There may have been some hope for me if my parents hadn’t bought me the ‘Jaws’ toy for Christmas. Complete with all the things that Jaws the shark ate. Think of the game ‘Operation’, another really bizarre game. I mean, how many kids played that and thought, “I suck at this. I should be a doctor.”
Anyway, where was I? Even I had to read back a few lines. ‘Jaws 2’. Anyway, I thought to myself, “Jaws 2? Did we really need a sequel? Did Jaws’ son or daughter come back all pissed off?” And then I realized, yes, yes we do. Because it’s just like me sending my kids articles (actual articles. Like with words. No music and no time or character limits) hoping they’ll read one of them and will glean a smidge of what it’s trying to say. Or what I’m trying to say. But ultimately I am doing what my parents did when they sent me NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS. I’m hoping that someone is listening to me. That’s why we keep repeating ourselves. We hope someone is listening and we’re scared that they’re not. And maybe that’s why Jaws came back. He had more to say. Or in his case, more to do.
I hope with all my might that my kids are simultaneously hearing me when I say (or read), “I know it’s hard. I know parents are a pain in the ass. I know the world is complicated and that we send conflicting messages. That we want you to eat right (but not too much and not too little), not do drugs (even though as adults we totally lied to you to get legislation passed when we said, “it’s not addictive”)(even though many of us can’t get through the day or evening without numbing ourselves with a few glasses of wine or half pints of ice cream). We want you to do well in school (but not so well that you have to cut yourself, binge or purge or both or tattoo the crap out of your neck and chest) and for the love of god, go to office hours (but say “no” if your professor asks you out on a date) because going to office hours totally changed our life and got us this big house you grew up in.”
And maybe the question we really need to start asking is, “Are the parents alright?” because that answer might be closer to no than yes.