There are quite a few goats….around here.

January 12, 2007

Today, as often happens my students and I got in a discussion that covered a variety of subjects, from superheros to drug use. And, during these discussions it amazes me to find that they cannot readily accept someone like me. They find my behavior quite bizzare. The cannot imagine someone who has lived the life that I have led.

When discussing smoking they often find it paradoxical that while I had chain-smoking parents I have never done so. I never even tried it. I was afraid, as I tell them, that I would like it and become addicted too. I never wanted to smell like them. I never wanted a burning pacifier to rule my life. I remember them not being able to go certain places because smoking wasn’t allowed. They, my parents, thought that I was some kind of “fresh air nut”. Well, a fresh air nut I am. I like breathing. I do not like suffering, as so many have with smoking. I cannot imagine having the difficulties that so many do, due to their desire for a pacifier. I never did like one, even as a child.

Of course, my students don’t see it as a pacifier. No, it is a measure of adulthood. So, I ask which shows our adulthood more, giving into desires that we know will hurt us or standing firm against the pressures that society can bring?? They, of course, don’t like it put that way. They cannot fathom someone who just didn’t see the need. They cannot fathom someone who chooses not to and follows through. What does that say about our society? What does that say about my generation?

My generation often marvels at the youth of today and their indulgence in wanton behavior. Where do we think they learned that self-restraint was not an option? Where do we think they learn that going along, because everyone does is OK? Well, sadly, they learned it from us. How many people do we know that got into trouble because they simply went along??? How many people do we know who have been in trouble and can’t figure out how they got there? Far too many.

My students cannot fathom someone thinking prior to acting. They cannot fathom someone who sees others having fun and choosing not to join in because the “fun” includes consequences. They are under the same impression we were under, hey you are only young once….so have fun now….’cause it ends soon. How sad must their parents’ lives be?

I ask the students, if the fun ends at adulthood, why do so many continue to exist? Why not end it all when you graduate high school? They respond that most of the adults they know are angry, frustrated, sad, and depressed. These people don’t have fun. They have drudgery. My response to them includes the tale of a number of gentlemen much older than myself who, while in their 70s, still look forward to tomorrow with great anticipation. These old guys expect to continue to challenge themselves and have fun…..regardless of age.

The best days of our lives should always be before us…..regardless of our age. We should not give up, give in, or relent in our pursuit to challenge ourselves. Without challenging ourselves we begin to wither and die. It doesn’t have to be so. We can lead our children into an adulthood not crippled at the start by smoking, drinking, and drugs. Not because we are so righteous, but because we want to be strong and proud for a long lifetime…not just while we are young.

Further, how pathetic are we to show our children how weak we really are so easily. Sure, they will know we are weak…in so many ways…but, do we really need a pacifier to reinforce the notion. Yes, I know quiting is hard….my father quit….the day he died….he couldn’t manage it before hand. How do we expect our children to be of a strong will and mind if a tiny tobacco plant rules over us…or a bottle….or a pill….or a…well, you get the picture. We fail so often, in so many ways…business, academics, sports, relationships, etc. must we include addiction as part of that. While I realize that addiction can be treated as a disease…it is a disease that we do not have to suffer. If we do not indulge, we never become addicted. Is it easy to go against the flow…no? Is it easy to face reality sober….no. But, don’t our children deserve our sobriety?

I am accused, quite often as you might guess, of being antisocial, but what most people mean is that I am not like everyone else….I don’t just go along. True, I am not a sheep. I don’t follow just because….of course, this particular trait didn’t always serve me well in the military. Being a goat isn’t easy. But, it seems to me the sheepiness of others is much harder….. At least around here, there do be goats about.

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