Like all the other millenials that grew up in the suburbs with good parents I never learned the meaning of the word no. Literally. No one ever said ‘no’ in a way that was meaningful. They said ‘don’t hit your sister’ which meant I could hit her when they weren’t looking and no I couldn’t have a sleepover on a school night which just meant I had to come up with a better argument first. Imagine my sincere shock upon learning that sometimes no really does mean no. In relationships for example, you can’t argue your way into one or negotiate to keep someone around.
Failing to succeed with the first lesson of gen y suburbia, I on-to-the-next-oned to my parent’s fallback advice. “You can do anything you set your mind to.” This seems ludicrous. I can’t bend spoons with telekinesis, for example. But I really believed this, I think everyone in America is ingrained with this belief that you can do anything with hard work.
This makes some sense so I started applying it to my relationships. If I ever think of something nice about one of my friends I try to tell them right away, I bring people shit when they’re sick, I gave my shoes to someone and walked home barefoot (gross) once because that’s working as hard as I can at relationships. But working out and practicing in the off season doesn’t mean shit. People are trickier, they aren’t won or lost based on effort.
The worst part about this one is that the most painful part of rejection is knowing you were all in. If you give all the effort you can, and someone complains about it not being enough I mean, that’s kind of it isn’t it? There’s nowhere to go from there. Since your belief is that you can be anything/have anything with an increased amount of effort failure necessarily leads you into this hole of self doubt. You get in the shadow of this big ‘not good enough’ complex because all failure rests on your lack of effort.
So, maybe I could throw some WASPy pseudo-religious advice in here. What If I followed that golden rule thing? Do unto others, and they’ll scratch your back? In some sense I feel like Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye with this one. He’s trying to protect kids from growing up and getting jaded like himself because if he can’t have their innocence and optimism, he wants to make sure at least someone can. Maybe I’m too far away from the kind of person that can be in a loving, healthy relationship but I should be able to make other people feel like they can. I give people what I want a lot, not because I’m making hints about what they should do back to me but because I think at least someone deserves to have that. But there’s no promises of reciprocity in this rule, and it might just make you feel entitled and bitter.
These lessons are meant to keep us moving forward, to give hope that the next effort will pay off. I don’t these these give any promises about being happier or healthier or more successful. I think thats how people get addicted to the lottery.