I am beginning to hate a genre of people lately. It’s the people who will read the previous sentence and go on a lengthy rant about why I must love everyone. They will tell me not to use words like hate.
They will then narrate a crumby anecdote on some lesson they learned from their teacher in fourth grade. They will tell you that the only thing you should do in the world is to be good to everyone. By now, of course, I hate myself.
Giving advice makes us all feel important. It makes us feel like we are doing something with our lives. But receiving advice feels overbearing. Especially when you didn’t ask for it. That’s the crucible we are in now.
A generation of parents that want to give advice because they care way too much about our giddy state of existence, and a generation of their progeny that’s saying “take a chill pill and drink some free will, dad bro.”
This hurts both generations. The parents feel unworthy, while we have another reason to look pissed. To us, the unsolicited advice seems like an intrusion of privacy. We forgive our parents because we know they are the only people who will love us in spite our natural ability to be a complete jackass with them.
However, when unsolicited advice begins to come from their peers – the relatives and friends, we begin to avoid them like an airborne disease.
We have become used to the what next? question from people. But to actually be told what exactly we should do next and worse: when exactly to get hitched and make babies and stuff, you just crossed the line, you! You don’t tell me what I should do next and don’t ever tell me I should get married because it’s the right age. I am not a bottle of cheap white wine!
But before my macho millennial side gets out of control, let’s deconstruct the other side of the argument.
No one’s actually forcing us to do anything. Everyone’s just concerned. Even if they are not, believing that will make your life a whole lot pleasant. Also, some unsolicited advice can be surprisingly useful if you actually listen to it. We are missing out on a great source of reflection in our hatred of unsolicited advice.
Sure, most of the advice comes without an understanding of who you really are, which, let’s be honest, you have no idea yourself. But, some of it comes from a deep understanding of a person’s own self. And even though you didn’t ask for it, when someone lends you a hand while you are crawling on the floor, the wise thing to do it take it instead of pretending like you like the floor way too much.
We have become a bunch of thin-skinned Netflixing couch potatoes with an expert ability to become pissed at questions that relate to our lives. My parents have become so scared with my reactions the few times they tried to give me advice, that they’ve now devised a strategy to make the most basic advice look like they are asking me for a favor like it’s the least I can do for being their son.
“Hi, son. How are you? How was your day? Hmmm…ummm..okay. (10 minutes later) Did you forget to switch off the lights before you left? Hmmm…ummm..okay. I know I am asking you that for the fifth time in the last three days and it will naturally upset you, but see if it’s possible to switch off the lights before you leave the room. ..Hmmm…ummm..okay…Your children may not have electricity.”
My Dad always adds that last part which mildly annoys me, but I am getting a whole lot better at basic stuff like that.
The fight against advice happens because it seems to question our freedom.
What we haven’t understood in this attempt to be free is that complete freedom is boring. All freedom is achieved only through sacrifice.
Without sacrificing the need to look like we’ve got it all figured out, we are never free to go figure out anything. Without sacrificing some of the things we want to do, we are never free to do anything fully. Without sacrificing who we are, we can never become who we could be. Without sacrificing freedom, we will never really know what it is like to be free.
You would imagine all this freedom we have compared to the generations that came earlier will make us better. But it’s only making us neurotic, discontent and confined within our own over-identifying selves.
So, when our parents and relatives and neighbors and Uber drivers and who-the-jackshit-are-you-again people give us advice, it’s no reason to be discouraged, pissed or misunderstood. It’s not a threat to our freedom. It’s an aid to life. It’s the only way we have to give each other a part of our lives. That’s the only thing that will remain once the earth becomes free of every generation: the parts of their lives they passed on, however broken.
Listening to advice is a sacrifice we must make not for the sake of the generations that came before us, but for the generations that come ahead. Because, in a very short time, your kids (shit!) are going to be horsing around, shouting a message of their own, ignoring everything you say. You will watch them crawl on the floor, making the same mistakes you made. Maybe in complete darkness, because you didn’t bother to turn off the lights.
But rather than telling the next generation what to do with their lives, I hope we can tell them stories of sacrifice and hope. The better we become at sacrifice, the better our lives, freedom and our children’s presumably bright future. It’s also the greatest honor we can do to people that came before us.