At no point in my life have I heeded adult advice. Adult in this sense meaning elder, implying someone more wise–the isolated sage on the mountain top. This was because A: there was a lack of true adults and B: the advice was shit. It was out of place and context, filled with the lowest of low expectations. Don’t step on cracks, don’t use the Lord’s name in vain, be manly at all costs (i.e. mean and violent towards everything), latch on to the first menial job you can find and bury your heart in it, don’t do drugs (in school, in lieu of learning), find a woman who can cook and marry her–mostly at a time when there was no heat in the house and I’m just trying not to go to bed hungry.
So, I’ve taught life to myself, overcoming every difficulty, whether small or large, alone–how to brush my teeth, when to use deodorant, how to read (thank you video games), algebra to get into college, the political process, history, statistics, basic economics, travel, guitar, some Spanish, finance, navigating the workforce (who gets what jobs and how), you name it–to a thorough enough degree that a non-expert in a particular field is unlikely to provide new information. Several people I know have had to do the same. This exhausting endeavor has at times been motivated by loathing–for myself as well as those around me whom I’ve thought just weren’t trying hard enough. Now, even though I’ve taken great strides in coming to approve of myself, I have not developed such an acceptance of others. I’ve learned how to smile and nod through life lessons offered by people who are physically older than me only because it’s polite. No matter how wrong or massively condescending the information is, but I often want to say, “I’ve never been anyone’s kid, why start now?”
I rarely agree with post College Dropout Kanye, but, “Can’t tell me nothing.”
This has come with a hammer–>nail approach to interpersonal relationships and the excuses to go along with it. For people close to me I say, “well, I’m just as hard on myself.” Which is meant to imply that because I care, I have a vested interest in their continued self-improvement and worldliness (as lofty as that sounds, there’s some truth in it). If I end up promoting any form of self-actualization to a stranger it’s usually because I feel like they really need it. Distant relatives I might see at a funeral, people who misuse the emergency department, belligerent young soldiers from some other unit. But I’m often a hypocrite.
As much as I grin and bare it every day through someone spoon feeding me shitty or obvious advice from a pedestal, I’m probably standing on that pedestal just as often. Clearly I don’t find my own advice shitty–although some should be obvious–nails absolutely need hammers. There is rarely a known reason to take my word for it. Similar to the way that I often nod and think, God I can’t wait until this is over, whenever some old dude who had a college fund is “teaching” me about the welfare state or the grandiosity of Donald Trump’s policies or why I should want everything he wants/has, nearly every scrambled together self-improvement program I’ve handed out has fallen on deaf ears. To alter the world view of someone who has never felt included in said world is a Herculean task that requires far more than a basic mission to civilize. And it is always far too late when we try.
I should know that the narrative of hard work is complete bullshit, but the only words I seem to find for my brother or mother or anyone still living in squalor back in the hood can often be reduced to “you’re just lazy,” or “you’re not trying hard enough.” While sloth sometimes plagues us all, there is a wide swath of possibility between blaming that and saying nothing at all.