People

How spring break gave me an open mind


My cousins came to visit me this past week during their spring break. They brought the ghost of college past with them and I’m still trying to kick it out.

My cousin is 18 and she is my pride and joy. I have a very special bond with all of my cousins but she is the closest woman in age and proximity to me so we relate to each other the most. She’s also the one who comes to me the most for advice.

She brought three friends with her from college and the conversations they had catapulted me to when I was in college. They would huddle in my car as I chauffeured them to their next tourist destination. As they became more comfortable with me they would talk about their lives. I found myself wanting to interject so many times. Most of the time, I just wanted to scream, “None of this is going to matter next year so stop worrying about it!” But I’m sure someone told me that at their age and I didn’t listen so why would they. I remember thinking I knew everything at 18 and I was incredibly complicated.

My cousins can tell you I’ve plagued them with unsolicited lectures their entire lives. I would talk to them about everything from work, school, sex, drugs, relationships, death, love, and sacrifice.

A lot of the lectures stemmed from little life lessons I learned and mistakes I made that I wanted them to avoid. After finishing college and joining the workforce I slowly stumbled into bigger regrets. I know I’m not special in having regrets about college years, but it’s terrifying thinking about them and then wondering if you’re making making mistakes now that you’re going to regret later.

We’ve all had that moment where we’ve wished someone would drop out of the sky and tell us what’s really going to matter in five years. Some people say you should never regret anything because at one point in your life it was something you wanted. Others think if you just say yes to every opportunity you’ll never regret anything.

My other cousin who came to visit is 22. He brought his girlfriend of almost a year. He’s like a brother to me, but I stopped lecturing him early in life because he has a strong personality that cannot be stirred by anyone. It took me a long time to learn that he was always going to be too proud to accept help from me. Unfortunately, this isn’t an anomaly in my family and it shouldn’t have taken me that long to recognize I was looking in a mirror.

The more I reflected on my cousins’ youth the more I saw how I wasn’t much different at that age. A lot of the posts I write might sound like I’m giving unsolicited advice, but they’re just meant to be a retelling of experiences. Your experiences can feel lonely when it seems like no one around you is going through the same thing. When I write I hope someone can relate. It never occurred to me that maybe someone could drop out of the sky and tell me what’s going to matter in five years.

An older friend serendipitously sent me a message about my previous post with the perspective of age at the exact time I was mulling over the idea for this post. He had the same experience reading what I wrote that I had listening to my cousins. He remembered having the thoughts I had and feeling the way I felt, but he also explained how those feelings would change as he got older and learned what really mattered.

When I was 18 or even 22, I probably would have rolled my eyes and thought, “There’s no way this person knows how I’m going to feel in the future. We’re so different.” But with the perspective of age I know that it’s not just possible but probable.

Maybe in another ten years I’ll go back to thinking I know everything but for now, please send me your unsolicited advice.

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People

The ways in which I am like my father


Some people are afraid of becoming their parents. There have been times when this was true for me, like the first time I caught myself rationalizing like my mother or avoiding conflict like my father. But to quote one of my favorite books, The Sandman, “We do what we do, because of who we are. If we did otherwise, we would not be ourselves.”

I am like my father because we both try to avoid conflict at all cost. I used to think this was selfish of him and I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t rather talk about his feelings than have an outburst or go off by himself. Now that I find myself guilty of the same crime I realize that while it is a little selfish, it’s coming from a place of desire to love. My father worked a lot and my mother did too, so we didn’t have much time together. My work days are long now and I only see loved ones for a few hours every evening much like my parents used to see each other. The last thing I want to do with that precious time is argue or disagree. Those moments are like treasures that I want to polish every night, not bruise.

I am like my father because we can both quickly lose our patience with people we love. As a child, I remember my father immediately shooing me off after failing at some task. I thought he didn’t like me very much because I wasn’t as capable. Now that I do the same thing, I see how hard it is to watch someone you care about struggle and fail. My father and I must be the most cynical idealist to ever walk this earth. We want everything to be nice and flowy and happy.

I am like my father because sometimes we just need to be alone. I don’t know if you’ve read Harry Potter but there’s a werewolf in one of the books and he has to hoard himself up in this room underground so he doesn’t hurt anyone when he changes. But of course he doesn’t tell anyone he’s a werewolf so Harry Potter and Co. follow him and nearly die. My dad and I think we’re werewolves and as egotistical as that might sound, we can be mean and hurtful. I always thought it was childish of him to walk away from arguments. He would go hide in the garage. Now that this happens to me, I think he just knew himself well enough to go to a room when he was changing so as to not hurt us.

This makes it seem like we’re monsters and we probably look like that sometimes but all of these things seem so small when I think of all the ways I hope I’m like my father.

I hope I can be as dedicated to anything as he is to his family. I have never felt safer in my entire life than when I’m with my father.

I hope I can be as talented with my hands. My dad can fix anything, he can paint, play the guitar, work on cars, cook, mend a little bird’s broken wing, and in a pinch figure out how to make a ponytail.

I hope I can be as strong. My father has always had muscles, but he’s also always had the incredible ability to move on from anything. When anyone tells me that after a certain age people don’t change, I know they’re wrong because my father has grown every year since I’ve known him and it’s always for the better.

I hope I can be as accomplished. As a teenager my father moved to the states from Mexico. He found a job, saved money, bought a house, and helped other people who were trying to do the same by letting them live with him. Then he met my mother and kicked them all out. Since then he’s worked hard to give us the world. Money can’t buy you happiness if you don’t have love and he gave us both. It’s incredible to me that a man with nothing but the shirt on his back, a lack of education, and a language barrier could come to own a few houses, a few cars, send a kid to college, and still have some money and energy left over to encourage his wife to retire early.

In some ways I have turned into my parents and I guess I’m pretty okay with that.

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