The Importance of Being Earnest

Don't be this guy

The older I become, the less time I have for jaded, cynical, “too cool” people. What’s so wrong with expressing unvarnished admiration for something, or admitting that you actually care about the outcome of a situation? By merely shrugging your shoulders and saying “Meh, whatever” (or worse, sitting on the sidelines andĀ sneeringĀ at those who do care), you consign yourself a group of people who aren’t trying to make the world a better place.

And yet, I so often find myself doing just those types of things. The very traits that make me want to slap the majority of 15 year olds with whom I come in contact are far too often evident in my own life. Why is that?

I think it boils down to being willing to stick your neck out for something. I’m often not. It takes time and effort to sit down and think of a solution, and then it means being willing to suffer the slings and arrows of those around me when I try to make things better by implementing my plan.

Human nature makes it easier to be a seagull. I can just fly in to a situation, crap all over it, and then take off again. I can express my dissatisfaction with the way things are, but if I’m not willing to try to make a difference, why even bother? No one likes seagulls.

We’ve all heard the story of how you keep crabs in a bucket, right? One crab will just crawl out if put in the bucket alone. But, if you put two in there, and one tries to claw its way to the top, the other will reach up and pull it down.

I remember hearing this as a kid and not really understanding it. Now, as a parent, more than anything I want my son to be in an environment where he’s encouraged to try to do something awesome, to be willing to stand up for what he believes and stick out from the crowd if necessary. If he ends up as a 14 year old in a hoodie, skinny jeans, and hair falling in his eyes, without the ability to look anyone in the face and responding to questions with shoulder shrugs and “Whatever”, I’ll have failed as a parent.

But how can I expect him to become something different than the majority of society will influence him to become, if I’m not willing to model that type of behavior myself? I want my son to see me fail when I’m doing something I think is important. And even more, I want him to see me succeed after doing it again and again and again, as may times as it takes. I want him to see me prove through my actions, as well as say with my words, that there are things worth caring about. I want him to understand that life isn’t a joke, and it’s not worth it just to get by, drifting along with the other seagulls, making a lot of noise and crapping everywhere without bringing anything else to the table.

When I left home to go to college, my dad gave me a plaque. It hung in our house growing up, and now it sits next to my desk here in my office where I’m writing this. On it is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt. It’s gonna be with me forever, and I’ll give one to my son one day.

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered with failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory or defeat.”


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