Hey, Kids! What Your Elders Want You to Know

D.R. McElroy

And it’s not about us. 4 min read

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Photo by Jake Thacker on Unsplash

“Every generation blames the one before. And all of their frustrations come beating on your door.” The Living Years, Mike and the Mechanics (1988)

You haven’t asked us, and you won’t. That’s okay. You need to find your own way in the world, a world that looks vastly different from the one that existed when we were your age.

We don’t have a frame of reference for this current world, even though we are a part of it. We stare around at it like deer lost in the headlights of an oncoming semi loaded with dynamite. We cling to our old ways and our old beliefs because the train of this world is moving by much too fast for most of us to jump aboard. The most sprightly of us can make it, though, so please don’t kick all of us off.

*The delusion lies not in thinking that you could do it better (you probably could), but rather in the notion that we are somehow “holding you back” from your destiny.*

Just because we’re “old” (which is really a relevant concept rather than an actual number), doesn’t mean that we should just take ourselves off to the wilderness and die (as some of your recent articles have suggested). Your zeal to take over the running of this world is commendable, if perhaps somewhat self-delusional. The delusion lies not in thinking that you could do it better (you probably could), but rather in the notion that we are somehow “holding you back” from your destiny.

But I said that this article wasn’t about us, and it isn’t. It’s about YOU. It’s about what we know about life after having lived it for 50+ years, and how that knowledge could benefit you…if you cared to listen.

Here are five things that we would love to tell you if we had the chance.

  1. You’re not as hideous as you think you are. You’re not fat or ugly, too short, too pale/dark, or too whatever. There’s nothing wrong with the way you look now, and changing your looks won’t improve your life. Your problems will follow you regardless of whether your boobs are bigger or your nose is smaller; whether you weigh 115 pounds or 415. Looks only matter in getting people to give you a chance: at a job, a date, or a role you might play. Once cast, the outcome still depends on your ability to do the work, contribute to the relationship, or become a star. Looks will fade, no matter what we try to do to prevent it. Concentrate on being a real person, not a profile picture.
  2. You’re not as wonderful as you think you are. You’re not a genius, an angel, the perfect lover, or the best human being. You’re just like any other human being: flawed, struggling, learning. Don’t imagine yourself above other people by virtue of your race, creed, education, sex, weight, politics, or any other measure you can think of. While it is human nature to want to “one-up” other people, resist this urge. If you do nothing else in this world, live by the motto that “all people are created equal”.
  3. Be kind first. Operate from a place of good intentions. Assume that others are doing so as well. Give people the benefit of the doubt before you chastise or belittle them. Ideally, never chastise or belittle anyone. You don’t know another person’s story, what they’ve been through or what their life is like. Even if they told you, you can never really understand how they felt. Though it may seem like it, it’s not true that “nice people finish last”.
  4. Take chances. Not like riding your bicycle through a bad neighborhood at night; don’t be dumb. But do try things that make you a bit uncomfortable. Like public speaking or babysitting your twin nephews. Like trying out skydiving or learning to speak a new language. Like publishing an article you wrote or taking your music hobby out on the road. At the end of our lives, it’s the regrets that we think about not the accomplishments. Don’t have regrets.
  5. Share your love with another living being. Don’t love inanimate objects (like mansions, cars, or gold cufflinks) that can’t love you back. Ideally, your love would be shared with another human, regardless of that person’s gender, color, religion, or what have you. If you love them — and they reciprocate — then cherish that relationship and do whatever you must to protect it from outside interference. It’s great to love animals, nature, and the earth, for they are living things, too. But, the love of a pet — no matter how selfless and devoted — can’t take the place of the love we receive from our fellow humans. (P.S. Being the object of “fan love” is not the same as loving and being loved as an equal. Accept no substitutes!)

Your elders have made many mistakes. We have regrets. In a perfect world, we would be able to go back and change decisions we made that were wrong, or that had unforeseen consequences that we didn’t intend. Sadly, this isn’t possible. And you blame us for our mistakes, which is completely understandable since you haven’t made very many of your own yet. When you inevitably do make them, your children will blame you for them as well.

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D.R. McElroy is a published author, writer, and copy editor with 15 years professional experience. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and a Masters in Environmental Resources. A conservationist, naturalist, and environmental advocate, she spends her time writing nonfiction articles on a variety of topics, as well as writing books on contract for publishers. D.R. wants to build a community of people who love nature and wildlife as much as she does, and who want to help protect our resources for public use.

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