When I take the time to look around at the people I consider my friends, I am sometimes surprised to see the diversity in the ages of my friends. I have friends in every age range from early 20’s to early 80’s. The ones that intrigue me the most when I stop to think about it are the number of young men in their 20’s and 30’s who have become good friends.
It’s not that I try to act like I’m their age. Even though I have retained the sense of humor of most 12 year old boys, I am well aware of how old I am. What I do offer that may influence these young men to hang out with an old woman is an open mind. I am fascinated by unconventional ways of looking at the world. I try to keep my mind open without getting caught up in what is “normal,” or “acceptable.” Because of the paths my own life has taken, I don’t usually give them the advice the rest of the “adult” world would.
I will not tell them that they need to buy a house: I am not a big believer in the benefits of buying a house. I know, we’ve all been told that renting is throwing away your money. We’ve all been told that earn all this money when you sell your house and the value has increased. It has been my observation though that in the vast majority of cases, any profit you make from selling your home is equal to or less than the money you have invested in maintaining your home. This is especially true if no one who lives in the house you own knows how to do the maintenance and repairs that home ownership necessitate.
I believe that there are other, easier and more profitable, ways to invest your money. I know I didn’t make any profit on the first house I owned when you take all the maintenance and repair costs into consideration. My second home purchase made a nice profit, but that was done with forethought and planning. Through a wonderful combination of intelligence and luck, I have had some great returns on some other, rather minor, investments. I understand that’s not how investments always go, but if you follow your gut and your heart, your return on investment will always fall in the plus column.
I will not tell them they need a college education to be successful: I am a follower of James Altucher and he speaks to this fact repeatedly in his writings. For at least two generations, Americans have told their young that they need a college education to get ahead. In my opinion, this has created a work force of people who have been taught how to get passing grades in classes without necessarily learning how to learn. When I was doing Human Resources I was appalled with the number of college educated job applicants who didn’t know how to write a well composed English sentence much less how to spell.
When these young, college educated applicants did get hired, they brought almost no problem solving skills to the workplace. What they did bring was arrogance and an attitude of entitlement that was fostered by a lifetime of being told what good money you could make with a college degree. Somehow, they either weren’t told, or didn’t understand, that a college degree was not a magical pass that made money and prestige flow to you with no additional effort on your part.
With all the methods of learning open to people in the 21st century, you can follow your passion and learn about almost anything you’d like online. Or, you can travel and learn by seeing and doing. If you have a good idea that you are passionate about, that fulfills a need or desire, people won’t ask to see your degree. They will look to see if your plan will work and if they think it will, they’ll invest in you.
I definitely will not tell them to work 9-5 or to work for someone else: When you work for someone else, you are giving all your efforts to meet someone else’s dream. Other people tell you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Even if you start out loving your job, the system isn’t set up to foster the continuation of that passion.
Instead of assessing what job would be the most lucrative, people need to assess what it is in their life that makes them happy. When I was growing up, if I ever mentioned I wanted to be an artist when I grew up, I was asked how I’d support myself. I can still feel the absolute heart stopping feeling of not having an answer to that question. I know more people than I can count who have similar stories. I am very clear that when adults put that limitation on children, they are doing it with the best of intentions, but the result of those intentions is generations of adults who spend their time counting down to the weekends, vacations and eventually retirement. I don’t think that’s a healthy way to live.
I will not tell them they need to find a mate and settle down: I don’t believe humans were intended to spend 50-60 years or more with the same mate. At the time that we were establishing the need for marriage, the average life-span was much shorter than it is today. Having a companion by your side as you establish yourself and raise a family is important, but it doesn’t have to be on anyone else’s timeline and it doesn’t have to fit anyone else’s vision of “the right way,” to do it.
Once upon a time, I was accused by someone whose opinion is totally inconsequential to me now, that the young men I know like to talk to me because I always agree with them. It’s not that I always agree with them, but that I will always listen to them. I will tell them is to dream big, pursue the things that interest them, travel and explore whenever they have an opportunity.
A few years ago, I told one of these younger men I thought I was a mother figure to him. He thought about it a moment and said, no, that was one of the other women at work. He said I was more like his crazy aunt. I loved that. I hope to continue in that role for many more young men and women for a long, long time.
I am more than happy to be seen as someone’s crazy aunt. As a lifelong fan of Auntie Mame, I can live with that.
(Photo credit: Auntie Mame (1958)
Directed by Morton DaCosta
Shown: Rosalind Russell)