Kidults (Part 3): Ruining Our Lives With Fun
Moe is a stereotypical American teenager who enjoys multi-annual vacations, has a computer and television in his room, and spends 32+ hours per week playing video games and watching television. Not only that, but nearly all of his income is discretionary, with Dad and Mom underwriting most of his expenses. He shoulders the burden of a job only in order to pay for expensive activities he enjoys and all the while his culture blares the message of a retired Pepsi commercial: “You’re young! Have fun! Drink Pepsi.” He is irresponsible, carefree, and has all the toys he needs to be happy. Life is grand when you’re a stereotypical American teenager.
Fast-forward ten years. Moe is now 27-years-old. He spent over five years to complete college and still owes the institution $15,000. He graduated with a brand-spanking-new degree in cognitive science but is working as a waiter in a local restaurant and says he’s just getting started on finding the career he wants. He’s had three addresses in the past five years and though he’s two years away from the average age for first marriage he sees marriage as a decidedly post-30 milestone. He spends more than the average person on clothes, going to/renting movies, computers and software (including games), and eating out. A perceptive observer might conclude that Moe is either having trouble or just plain doesn’t want to grow up.
Why? Well, let’s ask Matt Swann, a real person, and another 27-year-old. Matt is very similar to Moe, he spent 6 1/2 years to complete college, received a degree in cognitive science, works as a waiter in Atlanta, Georgia, and is just getting started finding the career he wants. When interviewed for a TIME Magazine article entitled, “Meet The Twixter’s” and asked if he was looking forward to marriage, family, and owning a home, Matt replied: “I don’t ever want a lawn. I do not want to be a parent. I mean, hell, why would I? There’s so much fun to be had while you’re young.”
The reason for Matt’s predicament is found in that last sentence: There’s so much fun to be had while you’re young. It seems as if that old Pepsi Commercial had a great effect on Matt’s pubescent mind. Whatever other feelings he has towards adult responsibility we at least know this: he doesn’t think it’s very fun.
My questions are these: Who said life was about having fun? Who said adolescence was about having fun? Who said adultescence was about having fun? Does the truth of the Bible teach it or does the lying tongue of our culture spread it? Did spending his teen years having fun prepare Matt for the rest of his life? And since the answer is obviously “no,” could it be that "just having fun” is a distraction from what’s supposed to be going on? Could it be that "just having fun” is a hindrance to the character and competence that should be developing while we’re still young?
At the root of many of our culture’s problems, including our generation’s problem with growing up is this idea of fun. You can’t get away from it. It’s hammered into our heads through by every kind of media; it’s even enforced by “understanding” and respectable adults who have also bought into the lies of our culture. We live like the Nike slogan: Just Do It. We have tons of fun while we’re young.
Granted, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself, but if it detracts from your development and preparation for the future it’s gone too far. Dr. Mel Levine, author of “Ready or Not, Here Life Comes,” advises parents: “Don’t overindulge kids with spectacular vacations, opulent material possessions and relentless tides of programmed activities after school and during the summers. Avoid creating hyper inflated egos living within protected spheres that will burst in early stages of a career when supervisors won’t care how gorgeous your kids are or what “cool dudes” they’ve become or what great ballplayers they were in high school.”
Dr. Levine’s message is clear: overindulgence in "just having fun” will not prepare you for life. You will reap no benefit from making childhood an impossible act to follow. Rather, you will find adult responsibility dull and unappealing. But guess what? Adult responsibility was originally intended to make up 70% of your life! What a waste to ruin the largest portion of your existence on earth by buzzing yourself numb during childhood!
If only we knew how our culture was shortchanging us by telling us to spend our teenage years just having fun! If only we knew the joys of committed marriage, of fatherhood & motherhood, of faithful stewardship and eventual leadership that are being gutted by the miscellaneous notion that life is about fun.
Here are a few practical steps to “save” the joys of adulthood:
1) Stop viewing your teenage years as a time to goof off before you have to settle down and be responsible. Putting off responsibility does not prepare you for responsibility. The teen years offer the best time of preparation you’ll every have. No other time in your life will allow you such undistracted preparation. No other time in your life is as pivotal to what you will become as these years.
2) Don’t separate what you are now from what you will become. If you hope to be a stay-at-home mom someday but at age sixteen can’t stand sitting around at home for two days straight then there’s a problem! If you won’t be able to play 20+ hours of video games per week after you’re married, don’t play that much now. Don’t expect extreme transitions to be made smoothly. Your best chance is to become now what you want to be then.
3) Begin establishing deadlines for yourself, assigning yourself responsibilities, and setting priorities. Anything that helps you develop self-discipline and responsibility. These characteristics are markers of maturity.
4) Limit your time spent playing video games, watching television, randomly surfing the web, and listening to music with headphones. All of these activities tend to isolate you and prevent you from the developing the kind of personality and character that makes living with you enjoyable. Work at simply interacting with people more, better yet, organize an activity (besides watching a movie, playing video games, etc.).
For example, my eleven-year-old brother Isaac just organized a 50+ player airsoft war on our property. He got all of these people to show up at the right place and at the right time. He made tons of phone calls to ensure that everyone had a working gun and safety goggles. He divided them all up into to even teams and we had blast last Sunday.
This story tells you that we are not against having fun, but we do believe that our fun should occur in such a way that it prepares us for the rest of life, rather than ruining us for it. Isaac developed organization and leadership skills as well as an ability to work with people that will serve him all his life. And he’s just eleven-years-old! You can do this too.
Continue Series with Part Four: I'm Pro-Choice: Choosing To Grow Up