I had no idea what was going on, who I was, or what was expected of me. I ate fish and chips every day because they were cheap and I knew how to order them. I approached my work with a cheery but deep-seated incompetence which baffled my superiors. I teetered on the edge of getting sacked but somehow managed to avoid that ignominy, through a mixture of politeness and some compassion from my boss.
It was only through discussion with my peers that I gradually gained some direction and a sense of myself. I won’t bother you with more of this because it is not the point of the post. I recall it because I have a sort of step- son who is now at a similar age to the one I was in when these events were occurring. His situation is quite different to mine but has some similarities. I suffered from no attention and little understanding . He suffers from too much attention and not enough understanding. Neither of us has or had any idea what we wanted to do apart from a love of music and, in my case, an interest in girls which was resolutely unreciprocated. I hope his is more succesful.
Unlike me he is burdened with too much interest and expectation. I suffered from no interest but we both backed away from the scrutiny of our adult relations whose interest can seem invasive and is often discomfiting. Youth wants independence without the means to support it and that is its dilemma.
I had no advice but he has too much. Advice, in my opinion, is useful on short-term goals. “How does this tin opener work. Would I get a better value holiday in Malta or Skegness and so on, but longer term is more difficult to provide.
We all give advice, and to do so we often manage to overlook or disguise our own shortcomings . Inspiring people is a different matter. Moving them to face their own challenge in a fresh way without clichés marks the leader from manual reader. We are all lucky if we have someone like that in our lives. Instilling the confidence needed to cope with an uncertain future takes a level of skill and subtlety which many lack. I believe our confidence or lack of faith in someone is present in the smallest detail of our behaviour with them and will be subliminally received. Saying ” I believe in you” only counts if you really mean it. Giving fake encouragement always sours the moment. . That is why the right thing to do is not always the easiest. With regard to this lad, here are my thoughts. I want the best for him and genuinely I believe in him. He is a very decent individual with integrity and natural, even impressive good manners. He does not boast and he has a new-found enthusiasm for judo but other than that he lacks direction.
He is not alone. There are those who know from an early age what they want to do in life: scientist, musician or doctor but most people are not so lucky. What we have all learnt is that if you don’t choose and control your agenda something or someone else will. Interested parties gather round to proffer their advice and often export anxieties but doing the right thing is harder.Besieged by advice it is easy for the young to drift into a world of daydreams.
This lad is of essentially sound character and will answer most of the questions posed by life for himself. What the adults in his life should offer is confidence and belief. The way we live our lives, and the values we demonstrate in doing so will influence or affect him more profoundly than anything we can say. I didn’t always know this but sometimes actions really do speak a thousand words.