How We Become Independent Thinkers
Maybe we Misunderstood?
It has occurred to me more than once that the concept of becoming an independent thinker can easily be explained. In fact, I came to the conclusion that it's pretty much cut and dry. When something is obviously simple, what is it about human beings that pushes us to complicate things? Let's not play that game today. Follow me as I keep it as simple as it actually is. Follow the bouncing ball of life's progression.
From the time we're able to communicate and begin to learn what life is all about, as children we do a lot of listening and mimicking. If our parents take their responsibilities seriously, they teach, guide and explain continuously about every little thing. We in turn, ask endless and sometimes difficult questions. This pretty much puts our parents on the spot but most of them come up with acceptable responses...at least for the time being. Our parents are our gods and our number one source for information until we begin to socialize, attend school, learn to read and get out into the world to some extent. By this time as independent little people, we begin to see and hear a whole lot of things that don't necessarily jive with what we had learned up to that point. We discover some of our friends have entirely different takes on the same thing.
So what's up with this? It can get a little confusing but what's really happening is that we're continuing the learning process. At this point we're learning that not everyone is the same. Eventually we see that it's important to listen and share information with everyone else, in order to get to know people and most of all, to get along. Soon our friends become our gods and we learn to bond with our peers because in many ways, they make more sense than our parents do. Plus, they're a lot more fun and don't have the power to ground us.
By the time we're teenagers, we don't seem to ask as many questions,because as far as we're concerned, we already know all there is to know. We also don't often listen to arbitrary advice, especially from Mom and Dad. After all, so much of what they tell us doesn't always match up with what other people say and do. And anyway, we ask out loud why don't they like all our friends? Why do they think some of our friends are OK but others are not? We like them all. What's wrong with that? At sixteen, there's little doubt that we feel our parents should just mind their own business. We can handle our own life.
Moving right along....
Are you with me so far? Of course you are. What's not to understand? Let's move on.
We become really involved in High School. Some of the students are real geniuses, some are just average and then there are the few who just show up and do nothing. The A-students like all the teachers, the average ones only like some of the teachers and the failing students think all the teachers are big jerks. We don't know how we feel exactly, so we wait to see what our friends think and say before we make up our mind.
We might think it would be a great idea to run for class president but a few kids tell us we don't have a chance. There's a role to try out for the school play and an open spot on the chess team but we take so much time deciding, we lose the opportunity. Why didn't someone tell us what to do? What kind of parents, teachers, friends do we have anyway? How are we supposed to know what to do and when to do it? Whatever made us think we had all the answers?
Right about this time we find we're really attracted to someone and it looks like they sort of like us too. We're not really sure though, so we figure out a clever way to find out if they really like us. Who wants to be made the fool or worse, get shot down? That's when we implore the help of a friend. We ask them to do us a favor and ask this person if they have a date for the Prom and by the way.....do they like "so & so?" It's always so nice to have someone do the hard work for us. This way we take no chances. We learn to depend on others because we can't trust ourselves. Wait a minute. Did we just say that?......Is that good or bad? Sometimes we just don't know what to think, so we don't think at all. That settles that.
Intro to EMPLOYMENT
(Really? Do we have to work??) C'mon, we all know the answer to this. It's simple common sense. Basic survival, my friend.
When school lets out in June, a lot of our friends find a summer job, so we do that too. We try to think about what we want to do and where to apply but we can't be sure. How do we know what's available? Who should we ask?
You know sometimes we just get lucky and something falls in our lap. Our parents have a friend who manages a fast food joint, so they get us a job.....just like that.....magic! We learn to believe that some things in life require no effort, no thinking, no sweat. Cool.
This is where it gets a little tough. There's a lot to learn and hours of training. We might have to think on our feet and think fast too. After all, we're working in a fast food place, right? Things go well for the first few days as we're shown where everything is, how to work the register, treat the customers and keep on smiling. When we're left on our own, the panic sets in and we find that we need to ask a lot of questions and run to the trainers for support and reminders. We might even resort to begging another new employee to help us. Well, the thing about this is that everyone is busy and trying to do their best and hoping to keep up with the flow. If we're tailing these people and bombarding them with questions, their mood can get pretty ugly. One of them might even spin around and scream at us, "For cryin out loud, figure it out for yourself!!"
Figure it out for yourself? Is this person serious? What the heck does he mean? If we knew we had to think on our own, we wouldn't have taken this job. This seems completely unfair and unrealistic to us. Am I ready to think for myself? This is just great. Now we figure we may as well expect to being fired pretty soon for screwing up so much, so often. If no one is willing to help us think, it's inevitable, right?
We might suffer through and make enough money to buy some school supplies but we can't wait til summer is over. In fact, we can't wait til we graduate and can get away and go to college out of State. We're chomping at the bit to be the boss of our own life and do whatever we want to do without listening to any crap from anyone. That's what we want.....and we want it yesterday.
Off we go...and it's really the wild blue yonder!
The summer after High School graduation becomes a really special time. It's pretty important in so many ways. We're working another summer job, hoping to sock some money away for college cash. There's all our friends we want to say, "Goodbye," to and how much we'll miss them. For maybe the first time, we're feeling different, sort of strange and apprehensive. We actually feel we might miss our parents and siblings....our home, the family dog. We start to feel a combination of excitement and weak-in-the-knees. How do we deal with all this? The best part of that summer, that we're not aware is the best part.....is that we come face to face with the person in the mirror. This is intense. There we are looking back at us and knowing that this is the person we have to be with, learn with, encourage, motivate and lean on, for the most part from here on in. Some of us might think this is scary as hell.
A little fear never does as much harm as we may have thought. It might even kick start our brain to go back in time a bit and remember all the the things we've learned. We somehow recall word for word the time when we were twelve and our Dad gave us the lecture about being a team player and respecting the coach. When Mom sat us down to explain that people treat us how we allow them to treat us, so don't allow anyone to bully or badger us, no matter what. We remember the speaker at the school assembly who warned us about the hard core realities of drinking and drugs and how they just mess up our lives, crush the people who love us and destroy our future....how kids end up dead or in prison.
We keep staring into the mirror at our own face and after a while, we almost look like someone else. We feel like we're in a trance but we look older and wiser. How the heck did this happen? Maybe, we wonder, we're dreaming?
No, we weren't dreaming. We were growing up and becoming our own authentic individual. We were coming to terms with being our own best friend. We were facing the reality that in order to follow our heart, we need to know who we are and what we know is right. We're getting really close to accepting that we will do the right things simply because it's the right thing to do....not because someone else told us to or the crowd is doing it.
Yes, it's a shock and it's not always easy. That's why it's imperative we think for ourselves and walk the line we were guided toward....even when we tried not to listen. We're maturing into adulthood and this is all as it's meant to be. The only way it can be. We're beginning to awaken from our sleep-walk thus far. We realize we have a lifetime of thinking and work ahead of us. Our life will be the result of our own choices, our own thought process. The real truth is, we are each a very unique creature of the Universe and only we can shape our destiny.