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WHAT BUGS YOU? – by Neil

on 15/07/2015

Neil Newton, author of Railroad, talks about what bothers him most in life. Do read on – there is much to think about here.

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What bugs me: time lost.

By Neil Newton

Sometimes wisdom comes from odd places. There is a very good face book page called Collective Evolution, a page I recommend. A particular post that caught my attention listed the main regrets of retirees. The list turned out to be what you would expect, based on many other previous similar posts. But there was one regret that was a bit higher up on the existential chain. Paraphrased, this particular regret was about living the way that “the world” wanted, not in a way that would be true to the person you are.
A bit lofty, I’ll admit. But I think that most people would admit some slippage in terms of “being true to oneself”. The horrifying conclusion of the oft recurring regret is that many people live their lives with the advice of the ages ringing in their ears and make the same mistake their ancestors did; they wait and hope that…something would will make it right. And it goes on.

The other bit of wisdom came from an even more unexpected source. I was watching a classic movie station that is featuring film noir for the summer. Film noir is a strange animal; its birth marked the first signs of the film industry graduating from a mostly sanitized view of American life to a study of life’s underbelly, something that has been common faire in the movies since the late sixties. The protagonist in this particular movie is an angry violent cop, so out of control that he is living on the edge of being thrown off the force. The conscience of the piece is a veteran cop who is a happily married man who makes his family his anchor in life. Catching the angry cop after one of his beat downs of a suspect, he reads him the riot act. Disgusted, our angry cop ask him, “How do you live with the job.” He’s told, “I live with other people, this is just a job. You only get out of life what you put in, from the heart.”

Silly watching a black and white hard boiled middle aged cop from a movie made in 1952 and me feeling exposed. At the age of 56 I  find myself feeling the press of time but I also found myself feeling the anticipated grief for generations who are just reaching adulthood and those that have yet to come into this world. I am angry that we aren’t taught to teach our children to take reasonable risks and to try to find themselves. Or at least to try be happy.

It’s common wisdom that we all make decisions that provide the trajectory of our lives; there are always choices, they say. So if things don’t work out, it must be our fault.  But choices, good choices, are informed, something that only comes from experience.  If there is a reason that young adults sometimes meander, having dysfunctional relationships and taking only what crumbs come their way, it is often because they have been taught that the one thing that would teach them how live, life experience and risk, is a bad thing.

So what bugs me? We are a society full of conflicting messages. We treat our children like helpless morons till they reach majority and then we expect them to quickly make informed decisions about school, career, relationships with no guidance and no experience. What bugs me more is that we are often lousy stewards of our children’s growth. Encouragement to try various careers by job shadowing is an idea that has not become a trend nor will it in most parts of the U.S.

At my age there is precious little that I can do to change the trajectory of my life. Living from the heart requires years of practice. I can feel sad for myself, but I am watching teenagers and young adults struggling to figure out which way to turn. And, in many cases, I can see them beginning to waste time in the way I did.

In cultures that we would consider primitive because they don’t have cable and cellphone, young men and women are put through rituals that bring them to adulthood, psychologically, gradually and in a timely fashion. Could we do the same? I leave that question to your imagination.

What bugs me? It can be best expressed in the last line of one of the better poems I’ve read: “In all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.”

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Thank you, Neil. You truly have given us food for thought.

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One response to “WHAT BUGS YOU? – by Neil

  1. bjtiernan says:

    Neil, I love this piece of writing. I agree. I have a five year grandson who gets more love than any child I know and yet, he still clings to and chews on a childhood blanket for security. That made me realize something. Whether rituals are imposed on us or not, life imposes stages on us that we must all pass through eventually. One, is feeling secure within ourselves. Food for thought. Thanks for your piece. It made me think.

    Liked by 1 person

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