Degrees of Generation Separation

I am spending some time reflecting on my recent travels to Thailand and lessons that I learned along the way, the beautiful sights I experienced and wonderful people. The reminisce that gives me the greatest joy is the gift of being able to place my son and stepdaughter in the direct line of fire of adventure and a roadmap to experience our amazing world without boundaries or borders. The perspectives gained from travel to faraway lands has a reach that cannot be taught in a book or a classroom. I sit and wonder, what impact did this trip truly have on these young lives? Are they different people because we were able to share this experience?

My son is twelve and really took to the Thai people, he showed zero discomfort in the differences in culture. Within a day of arriving, he was able to bow and say short phrases in their language. Surprisingly, as a picky eater, he even managed not to complain about a diet that was very different from what he is accustomed to, which was one of my greatest concerns when deciding to fly him to the opposite side of the world. He adapted and managed just fine with no need for my interference. I was pleasantly surprised. The fact of the matter is that kids have a resilience that we take for granted. They have not been overly conditioned by the age of twelve and are able to experience life through a much less complicated lens than are capable of as adults. In fact, the only time my son felt discomfort was when a group of wild monkeys got a little too close. And again, I was surprised, what kid doesn’t like monkeys??

My stepdaughter recently turned twenty-five, a millennial, and as it turns out, millennials are the same no matter where you put them.  I was really excited that she was able to make the trip with us; we typically get along so well and truly know how to have fun together. Reflecting on her experience has been interesting. I don’t have any hard evidence that she really did enjoy her time abroad, although deep down I know she did. She had quite an arsenal of different types of complaints and expectations. You see, this generation is equipped with the lingo of advancing spirituality, but actually putting it to work in their lives…well… They speak of positivity, yet radiate negativity nearly constantly. They speak of patience and gratitude, yet diva-up with impatience and dissatisfaction in the literal blink of an eye, causing my face to do this weird thing where my head turns from side to side and I just blink, and blink, and blink. It’s almost unbelievable at times how quickly millennials can move between joy and complete disgust. I cant help but think of myself at her age, surely had I been given the opportunity for such an adventure, I would not have spent one second dissatisfied. However, the more I think about it, the more I begin disagree with myself. Truly reflecting on myself at her age, I can determine that I was emotionally charged, lost in the discomfort of uncertainty and finding my way, trying desperately to grasp adulthood, carving a path in a not-so-easy landscape and becoming highly conditioned by the world and culture that surrounded me. I thought I knew everything there was to know, way more than anyone else did anyway, and this particular delusion is where my stepdaughter reigned high Priestess for the entire duration of our travels. Truth is, as the older and wiser, more mature generation becomes just that, the more flawed we find our youth. We aren’t the first generation to be disgruntled with the one that follows us, it’s a natural progression that has occurred for ages. They just look a little differently than we did coming up because we are able to give them more opportunities than we were given and, advancements assure that generations grow up in entirely different worlds. That’s not a bad thing. After all, can we really be oh-so agitated with a group of kids that we have raised? I suppose, if blame must be placed, it’s the party that raises and leads the entitled, non-gratuitous generation. Fortunately, there is no blame needed. We are all just doing the best we know how and learning as we go. Can I just say that I am forever grateful to have survived my twenties; not even a smoking hot body and beautiful skin would lure me back to those days of struggle and strife. I’m grateful that I no longer have to be that tepid and unsure and yet casting such irony with the belief that I know more than anyone could know. That place we all have been. The place we grow from. I can see myself, sitting with my millennial, many years from now, with the grandchildren she has provided for me. We will surely be discussing the younger generation and all of their flaws…

We are all in different places in this world, various ages, diverse cultures. Yet, we are all connected. We are human and we all struggle with fears, growth, uncertainty, and being overly conditioned. I believe that taking my kids on this adventure did change their lives but fortunately, it changed mine too. I know now and can carry with me the belief that as a member of an upcoming, wiser generation, I need to act as such. More patience is needed with the youth that stands in the place that I once stood. It doesn’t matter if our children are at the age where they can be called an adult and it doesn’t matter how much they think they know; love, support and guidance will always be the job of the generations that have come before. If we can no longer see where we have been, then we lose the light that shows them where to go. We are the light for the younger generations. The greatest lesson to come out of Thailand had nothing to do with culture or geography, my greatest insight is that I want to hold my light high and pray that the illumination I provide for my children is one that demonstrates love, kindness, patience and compassion.

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