Open letter to a teen gambling with future
Recently, a reporter for The Union interviewed a 16-year-old smoker who was opposed to proposed legislation which would raise the smoking age to 21. The student said that such laws were unjust as it was his body, and what he did to and with it was up to him alone.
There’s no way I’m going to start lecturing him about his thinking. I don’t have a right to, and he’d be justified in turning me off if I did. However, as a fellow human, I do believe I have an obligation to offer some ideas that may make his life a lot happier as the years roll by. So I’d like to talk directly with him via this column.
There’s nothing wrong with you feeling the way you do, and it shouldn’t surprise you to know that your parents, grandparents and other family elders undoubtedly felt the same way when they were in their teens – which is why they often clamp down on you now.
The first idea I’d like to share with you is that no, we’re not trying to prohibit you from living as you want to. I do want to point out, however, that every single one of us adults you know at one time was an adolescent – you can’t become 40 until you’ve passed 30; you can’t become 30 until you’ve passed 20; and you can’t become 20 until you’ve gone through adolescence – and all of us know that that is a very bewildering time. You’re trying to discover just who you are, how you fit into the world and where do you want to go. These are tough questions, and you’re bound to go through a lot of pain trying to find some answers. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you have an adult you can trust who’ll give you some honest help and answers. It may make you feel a little less stressed to know that, while I’ve got a lot of miles on me, from time to time I still ask some of the same questions.
A few things, I do know. One of them is that you have a great responsibility which you didn’t ask for and which you can never avoid. That responsibility is to the old man you’ll someday be. The overwhelming odds are that you really are going to live a long, long time, and you are going to get old. Do you honestly think that right now you have enough experience and worldly wisdom to know how that old man will feel, especially if your actions now harm his health in the future? More important, do you think that your peers have?
Would you really trust more of our peers to run a business you owned, or to fly you safely to New York, or to diagnose a disease? Then why would you possibly trust them to tell you what to do and how to live? Talk with them, question with them, dream with them, but don’t surrender your future to them.
You’ve a right to assert yourself and try out your wings; but no bird is so willful as to jump out of the nest until his wings are strong enough to support him in flight.
I know that you face a lot of peer pressure to smoke, get high, experiment with drugs. I’ve known many users who truly wished they hadn’t caved in, and I’ve never known an adult user who said: “Thank God for the thoughtless kid I was who first got me involved.”
When your parents, counselors, older friends start barking at you about possible dumb choices and actions, just realize that they’ve already been there, and they’re not just being against you.
As you live, you’re going to get all sort of breaks – some of them good and some of them bad; it comes with the territory. But it’s the choices and actions, one at a time, that get you through successfully, or badly. Actions truly do have consequences. If you can learn and live by that rule, you’ll give yourself a pretty solid, happy life. You’ll also save yourself a lifetime of regrets.
I truly hope that you have someone mature in whom you can confide. Above that, I hope that you’re developing enough wisdom to realize that gambling with your health in order to impress someone is irresponsible and dangerous. It’s as simple as looking both ways before you cross the street.
Otto Haueisen, an investments professional who lives in Nevada City, writes a monthly column.
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