Friday, November 6, 2015

A Letter to my Fellow 20-somethings

Dear fellow young people:

Life is not fair.

Life is not safe.

You are on a lonely rock hurtling through space. You are a member of a species of animals that, for most of its history, has survived primarily through violence, rape, murder, and luck. Hell, most of the world still fits this description. There are hundreds of other species on this rock that may kill you as well. Some may see you as walking food. You yourself have killed things. Everyone has. Keep these things in mind.

Life is hard sometimes. You will be hurt. You will witness things that will haunt you. You will be treated poorly, unfairly, like shit. It absolutely will happen, no matter what you do.

Life is also wonderful sometimes. Good things will happen to you too. People will be nice to you, sometimes even if you weren't nice to them first.

Savor the good times. Give people the benefit of the doubt (within reason, of course). Embrace your sense of humor. I believe that everyone has a sense of humor, some just bury theirs. Smile when you feel like smiling. Laugh when you feel like laughing (within reason - no laughing at funerals, please)

Prepare for and learn from the bad times. Don't shield yourselves from negative things. The darkness balances the light. You need it. You need to live through the bad luck, the injustice, the nonsensical horribleness that life throws at all of us. If you learn to unflinchingly face the shadows with your eyes open, you will be preparing yourself for those times when you need to walk in the darkness.

Don't be a victim: don't make yourself into a victim. Don't insist on having a "safe space." THERE IS NO SUCH THING. No place can possibly be safe. Life is not safe. Life cannot ever be made safe. If you have actually been through a traumatic event, get counseling. Be brave, be strong, and keep on living your life. "Trigger warnings" and other such nonsense will do you more harm than good. Not all of life will give you a trigger warning, no matter how much you push for it on your college campus. You need to acclimate yourself to these potentially "mentally threatening" events. Face down your demons to make yourself a stronger person. The world works differently off-campus, so you need to prepare yourself for that.

No one gives a fuck about your feelings. Other than those people who are close to you, there is no one else on Earth who cares how their actions affect your feelings. And there is nothing you can do about that other than learn to deal with it. Yelling and screaming at someone who hurt your feelings is just going to make you look like you have the emotional maturity and self-awareness of a 5-year-old throwing a tantrum at the mall. Stop acting like a child.

College is for learning. I can't believe I even have to say this, but apparently some of you were never told about how college works. When you go to college, you are paying to be taught things. You are paying not only to be taught the material in whatever your major is, but you are also supposed to be taught how to be a somewhat mature adult. If you're in graduate school, you are supposed to already have learned how to be a somewhat mature adult. Now you are being taught your subject matter and how to be a mature professional adult. Yes, I know, college students have never exactly been known to be mature adults. That's OK; they're still in training. That doesn't mean colleges aren't for teaching maturity.

People will always be bigoted. It's really just human nature. I am racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, sizeist, homophobic, etc. And so are you. Whether you recognize it or not, you're just as much a bigot as everyone else on our little space rock. You cannot and you will not ever, EVER get rid of bigotry. It is absolutely necessary for navigating life that humans make snap judgments about other humans. The key to not being an asshole about it is recognizing your own biases and keeping them in check. Just because you can't get rid of it, internally or externally, doesn't mean you can't do SOMETHING about it. It's still worthwhile to fight against the systematic fucking-over of certain groups just because of their [whatever]. Pay equality? Yeah, of course. Equal qualifications should mean equal pay. Education equality? Hell yes. Every child should have access to a good education. But you know what's not going to do any good? Censorship. There is no point in outlawing the sale of the Confederate flag or fining people for using the word "nigger" or forcing everyone to change what pronouns they use. Stopping the speech will never stop the thoughts. You can't stop thoughts. All it does it drive the sentiments underground forcefully, making the most flagrant bigots even more angry and bitter and, most importantly, harder to spot. Let them talk. Let them look like assholes. You'll know who to avoid.

Respect each other. Everyone is different (in that way, everyone is the same, too). Some people will agree with you about some things. Some people will have opinions that are the exact opposite of yours. Some people will think you're very stupid. You will think some people are very stupid. Respect them. Be civil. Do not get angry when others are not civil with you. This is what being an adult is. If you disagree with someone, and the context is appropriate, voice your disagreement respectfully. Listen to the other person's point of view. Have a two-sided discussion. Do not "shout down" those you disagree with. They have a right to speak. You have a right to speak. So listen; so speak.

No comments:

Post a Comment