I’ve heard it a thousand times by now, been reminded a billion times, and have heard it spoken in a disapproving tone more times than I can count: “Just listen to your parents.”
I can’t remember how many times I’ve been scolded or reprimanded only to be told that all my unhappiness could have been avoided if I simply would have listened to my mom and dad.
Although there is a time and a place to listen to your parents, there’s a time and a place when you need to stop, re-evaluate and begin thinking for yourself. After all, isn’t that the beauty of growing up?
Our parents were right about the dangers of taking candy from strangers, the importance of saving rather than spending, and the value of getting an education. Despite their years of experience that have granted them hindsight wisdom and worldly knowledge, parents don’t know everything. I’ve learned that if I keep listening to them, I’m seriously going to miss out.
My parents are just two out of the millions of people known as baby boomers. Baby boomers grew up in a post-World War II world where thousands practiced free-love, experimented with drugs and fought against “the Man.” It was a culture dominated by long-haired hippies, good vibes and new music.
This counter-culture broke social norms and challenged the Establishment more than any other generation had done before. It was a time of anti-war rallies, music festivals, and social movements that re-shaped the entire culture of the United States.
However, life after the baby-boom generation has changed drastically. The 2001 terrorist attacks led us into a decade of political turmoil and war. The stock market crash of 2008 resulted in a recession that left thousands without homes or jobs. The War on Drugs has overpopulated prisons and created racial injustice. Culture within the U.S. has quickly fallen away from the beliefs and core values of the flower-children and consequently, growing up today is nothing like it was way back in the ‘good ‘ole days.’
Sorry, mom and dad, but you don’t know what it’s like to accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans just to receive a college degree. Your years of college cost less than a single year does now. I know you had to work hard to make money and I know it was difficult to obtain a job, but you’ll never know how competitive the job market is and how many applications I’ll have to fill out in the hopes of getting just one interview.
I’m sure mortgage payments were tough and car loans were frightening, but you’ll never realize how frugal I have to be with my money to afford my tiny space that is overpriced and unrealistic for the size. “School is always hard,” you told me growing up. But you don’t know how much pressure I felt when I had to determine a career right after high school, cram as many classes as I could into a year, and perform well enough to compete in my program.
I understand that you found time for play and set specific time aside for fun and friends, but sometimes this world is so messy and expectations are so high that traveling and letting loose is necessary and needs to be done more often.
I know you enjoyed growing up where you did and creating the life you have, but ignorance is not bliss, and sometimes experiences have to come from different places and different people.
Different cultures and different worlds are just as valuable as the one you brought me into. I understand the worry you have and the dangers you’ve predicted when I ventured out on my own, but important life lessons sometimes have to come from new experiences and wrong turns.
So no, mom and dad, I won’t always listen to you. I will listen to your experiences, smile at your wisdom and appreciate your advice, but when it comes to my life, my hopes and my dreams, I will only listen to myself.
That means that I will take wrong turns, make decisions you do not agree with, and live in a way you may not approve of. I may do things differently, choose to see things in a different perspective and I will develop different opinions.
By disobeying you or going against your wishes, your beliefs or your expectations, though, I will live in this world the way I feel I need to. I will create my own experiences and my own life in the same way you were able to years ago. I will have the chance to become who I want and I will be able to do what I want. You had these opportunities, too, and now it’s my turn.
You are right about many things, but this world is different and this life is mine. I will not follow in your footsteps and I will not do as you say simply because I do not want your life, your happiness or your experiences.
I want my own.
Sorry, mom and dad, but I’m not going to listen to you.