Old folks are bad about predicting gloom and doom, and I am among the most notorious. Even considering only the recent past, I have:
Told a young man who had just charged $2000 worth of stereo equipment on his new credit card that instead of maxxing it out by adding the cost of big screen TV to his balance, he should return the sound equipment and buy a portable stereo for $129. That, I said, would be easier to pay off quickly with the earnings from his part time job. If you buy the TV and max out your card, I told him, you will not be able to make the minimum payments. That will hurt your chances of getting a full time job when they check your credit, and if you should get a full time job and want to buy a house, your bad credit will cost you thousands of dollars in higher interest rates.
Advised a young woman that her current boyfriend was not good husband material, that his drinking and anger management problems would not be cured by marriage, even by having children, that he would not stop hitting her, and eventually, he would hit the kids.
Warned a young teenager that if he did not study, and persisted in cutting his classes to play video games, he would not be able to score high enough on his SATS or make the grades to get into the universities he was interested in, and if he really wanted in a career as a developer of video games, he should make it his business to learn what the term “programming language” means, a detail he did not feel was relevant.
And as is generally the case with old folks who offer unsolicited advice, the lucky recipients viewed my opinion as negative, defeatist, fatalistic and unecessarily pessimistic.
In their way, they were right. I can see their point of view. It is possible that the young media enthusiast could win the lottery, in which case he could not only pay off his credit card, but buy lots more TVs and stereos, one for every room. Or he might land a full time job before he misses that first payment on his card, and if the job pays enough, he might never miss one at all. He is not risk averse and believes that sometimes you just have to go with the gusto and take that shot.
The young woman believes she is in love, and there is nothing that anyone can tell her that will convince her otherwise. Sadly, she did not have the benefit of growing up in a home with parents who loved each other, thus one of the simplest but most elusive lessons, namely that true love is supposed to make you happy, not sad and afraid, will come harder to her. In her reality, what she feels for her troubled suitor is love. She cannot conceive of a life without him, and she knows with unshakable certainty that her love can change him. He does not need treatment for alcoholism, he does not need counseling, all he needs is her, and once she proves her devotion by marrying him, he will stop drinking, and once she gives him a child, his anger issues and violent tendencies will evaporate like snowflakes on a warm kitchen window. There is no question that love can work miracles, and none of us can know what is in another’s heart. Just because I cannot recall any other instance of what appears to be in her heart working this particular miracle does not mean it is impossible. The odds might even be as good as winning the lottery.
An old geezer like me, the teen will tell you, has no idea what I am talking about. I don’t even know the names of video games, much less play them, I am utterly ignorant of the skills involved, of the creativity required, that special something that makes the difference between just another game and a real blockbuster. That’s why I can’t recognize his talent or understand that with the kind of genius he possesses for this stuff, he doesn’t need to know what a programming language is, or conjugate verbs. Once he tells the game companies his ideas, they will be begging him to please come work for them, and not their competition. I have to concede he makes a lot of good points. I don’t know the first thing about video games, and I have a great respect for genius. Maybe someone at – see, I don’t even know the names of the biggest video game companies, to drive his point home, but maybe someone from there will have that same respect for the young man’s genius and hire him on the spot when he hears those ideas about monsters and racing cars and death rays, and all my blather about programming languages and writing complete sentences is just punchbowl piss.
What is it about the passage of the years that makes us so inclined to splatter gloom and doom all over the place?