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Even if the light at the end of the tunnel is a train, it's *your* train, dammit - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Zoethe

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Even if the light at the end of the tunnel is a train, it's *your* train, dammit [Apr. 2nd, 2008|09:23 am]
Zoethe
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

You know, there are times when you want to help people learn from your mistakes. You walk them up to the brick wall that you crashed into and show them the dent from your own thick head. You point out the scars and dents on your forehead that match up with the texture of that wall.

And then you just have to stand aside and watch them crash into it anyway.

The wisdom I have gained of late is that there is no point in being frustrated and upset with the people you've carefully walked through your own accident scene. Because as carefully as you CSI the thing, as many measurements and parallels and samples as you make and share?

There are just some walls that some people have to hit themselves before they can really understand what the impact means.

If they have self-awareness, they will even glance at you apologetically just before the moment of impact.

My father used to say, "A smart man learns from his own mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others." But even though he knew that, there was hardly a mistake that came along that dad managed to avoid.

Intellectual understanding and experience are two different beasts, and there are times that even the best of us cannot use the first to avoid the second.

That's not to say that the wisdom imparted by the already-scarred is useless. If the novice has the capacity to listen and learn, s/he may not avoid the initial impact, but the damage might be ameliorated. Even better, s/he might learn from the first time and not crash into the same wall time and again.

Between my friends, my children and, yes, even myself, I have slowly come to recognize that knowing the steps of the crash does not mean that you can prevent others from having the experience.

You can only keep loving them and help them come out the other side. Where they, with heartfelt sincerity, will try and fail to keep yet other loved ones from slamming into the same wall.

We learn. But we learn slowly.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: ozarque
2008-04-02 01:27 pm (UTC)
That's a fine essay, and a wise one. It's good to know that we do -- eventually -- learn.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-02 01:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much. That means a lot to me that you think so.
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[User Picture]From: morgi
2008-04-02 01:50 pm (UTC)
You are too, too right.

A goofball example: We had gotten a kitten. I had moved to Cleveland after college, and was now living with mebil and said kitten. Charles said, "Keep the toilet lid down or he'll fall in."

Because habit is a hard thing to break, I left the lid up and proceeded to brush my teeth. *splash* Wet kitten. After that, I learned to leave the lid down.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-02 04:53 pm (UTC)
When I was in high school we had a cat that was quite the opposite. He was fascinated with the toilet and figured out how to flush it. Then we noticed that the litter box was staying clean. We were nervously searching the house for some nasty gifts, but nothing. It took a while, but we finally caught him. He had actually trained himself to use the toilet and would flush afterward.

We always suspected that he was a human trapped in a cat body.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-02 04:54 pm (UTC)
LOL!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-02 04:54 pm (UTC)
Yup. Realizing that they aren't doing it on purpose.
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[User Picture]From: trianakvetch
2008-04-02 02:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you for these thoughts. I agree and coming to this realization, I believe, strengthens relationships more than weakens them.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-02 04:57 pm (UTC)
It certainly saves the argument about "why didn't you learn from my mistakes?"
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[User Picture]From: the_magician
2008-04-02 02:46 pm (UTC)
I have slowly come to recognize that knowing the steps of the crash does not mean that you can prevent others from having the experience.

But what you can bring to it, is not "I told you so" (which of course you wouldn't) but you can be there with the "band-aid and cup of hot sweet tea" equivalent for after the crash. You know it is coming, you know what the damage is likely to be, and so you can be ready to be there to help pick up the pieces and get the person back on track again ... and sometimes you can soften the wall they are heading towards.

And yes, often people have to learn by their own mistakes (I've worked on many SF conventions, and I can see people about to make the same mistake with badges or registration or publications or whatever that I went through ten or twenty years ago, and I point things out to them, and they are sure that, not being me, they can handle whatever it is ... and then it goes wrong ... that's when knowing what to do next comes in handy as you can help them recover from that disaster and keep everything flowing smoothly ... like having a stack of sticky labels and black marker pens handy to take over when the inkjet printer breaks or just can't handled printing 3,000 badges in an hour ...)
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[User Picture]From: trianakvetch
2008-04-02 03:27 pm (UTC)
You know it is coming, you know what the damage is likely to be

I think you have to be careful with that one though. I've been on both ends of this where I've crashed and someone has been there for me but because of the person I am, I am not reacting the way they did when they made the same mistake. Or I've tried to comfort someone after seeing them jump the same way I did.

The important part is making yourself available for comfort but not to come in with a particular notion of what type of comfort that person will want.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-02 05:02 pm (UTC)
Good point.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-02 04:59 pm (UTC)
That's being a real friend.
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From: bonerici
2008-04-02 03:49 pm (UTC)
so true. one reason of course that noobs don't listen to wisdom is because they have one look at those scars and don't believe you when you say it wasn't any fun.

"No really, being a drunk is no fun, you shouldn't drink daughter," daddy says.

"But, dad, weren't you an alcoholic for two decades?" the daughter says.

"Actually, it was longer than that," says the daddy.

"You're such a hypocrite, come on Jenna, let's get trashed!"
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-02 05:05 pm (UTC)
Kids. It sometimes doesn't matter what example you set for them. None of the adults involved in my kids' lives smokes or drinks heavily, but Erin had to experiment with both. You just want a shake them and scream, "Why???!!!!"

(I'm one of the lucky moms: she outgrew the experimenting relatively quickly - meaning it seemed like forever at the time but wasn't actually.)
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[User Picture]From: trianakvetch
2008-04-02 05:34 pm (UTC)
In my case my father smoked quite a bit but my sister and I, from a very early age, never saw the appeal and thus were never even tempted to try it. And most of our friends did smoke since in Spain it wasn't such a big deal.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-02 05:38 pm (UTC)
I tried twice. After the second time I thought, it stinks, it makes my throat hurt, and it's deadly. Why is this supposed to be so cool?!

That was the end of that.
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[User Picture]From: kisekinotenshi
2008-04-02 03:59 pm (UTC)
I realized that not long ago myself, mainly because I still frequent websites that are largely populated by high schoolers. I'm still young enough to remember exactly how I acted in high school, and I spent a long time trying to explain to them why their actions were causing them and others so much pain, but they didn't/couldn't understand. So I eventually just sighed and let them do their thing, there with comfort when it's necessary, but otherwise keeping my mouth shut.

The one mistake I am in fear of making is doing what my mother did and marrying someone like my father. Because she was repeating her mom's mistake too. x.x I feel doomed because of it. Hopefully, if I do make that mistake, I won't be married to him for 28 years (as she was).
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-02 05:07 pm (UTC)
I went completely the other way, married someone the polar opposite of my father the first time around.

It was better, but still not pretty. He's a better person with his second wife, though, and a better dad, so it's worked out.
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[User Picture]From: kisekinotenshi
2008-04-02 05:50 pm (UTC)
I wish my dad was a better person with his second wife. Really, she makes him worse, because she dislikes everyone related to him (including my brothers and I, of course). I wasn't mad when he remarried, but I still maintain that he could've found someone a lot better. I guess the appeal in his eyes was that she is the polar opposite of my mother in every conceivable way except gender. I'd be okay with her if she didn't treat me like a trespasser every time I visit their home. XP She's fine in other places, but when I visit their house she acts like I'm a termite or something.

Beh. Anyway, yeah. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that.
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[User Picture]From: ithildae
2008-04-02 04:26 pm (UTC)
Experience is a teacher
but here's what makes me burn
she always tries to teach those things
I have no wish to learn.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-02 05:07 pm (UTC)
Cute.
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[User Picture]From: jeffpalmatier
2008-04-02 04:39 pm (UTC)
One of the horrible ironies about giving advice is that you usually do so because you're trying to help somebody else avoid the mistakes and pain you went through. However, in order for them to really understand the advice you're trying to impart to them, they often have to go through the very same experience/pain that you're trying to keep them from experiencing in the first place.

I remember wondering some years ago, "Why didn't somebody try to warn me off about doing X?" Then I realized from my own experience of trying to give advice to others that it might not have did any good anyway because either people don't listen to the advice you're trying to give them, or they have to learn for themselves through painful experience the lesson you're trying to teach them.

I'm not saying one shouldn't try to give advice. I'm just no longer surprised or get overly frustrated if somebody doesn't listen to me or learn from my advice. Also, I tend not to be pushy anyway about giving advice since I don't feel comfortable being pushy/overly assertive. I might mention what they should look out for, but unless it's a matter of life and death, I don't push the issue. I just hope things turn out okay. You have to learn to accept that beyond a certain point, things are beyond your control to influence, and people are going to make mistakes despite your best efforts to keep them from doing so.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-02 05:08 pm (UTC)
I think it helps to have heard it, when they finally do crash. They just don't have enough experience to understand what you're saying until after they...have enough experience to understand what you're saying.
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[User Picture]From: jeffpalmatier
2008-04-02 10:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I agree. Having heard the advice might help them learn the lesson better once they go through the experience for themself: "Oh! That's what you meant by that. Now I understand." I know that in my case, even when I was totally willing to take somebody else's advice about something, it really wasn't until I did something myself that I really understood the advice somebody else was trying to give to me.

Still, even keeping the above observations in mind, sometimes advice can help keep somebody from something dangerous or at least minimize the damage that might happen to them. After I read various articles and books about the horrible things others went through because of using drugs, I thought, "Ugh! That sounds horrible. I'm doing that." And to this day I've never used drugs, so that's one positive example of that.
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[User Picture]From: noshot
2008-04-03 01:17 am (UTC)
A refrain comes to mind:

Nothing changes cause it's all the same
The world you get's the one you give away
It all just happens again
Way down the line

And all the things you learn when you're a kid
You'll **** up just like your parents did
It all just happens again
Way down the line


- Offspring
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-03 11:16 am (UTC)
Yeah. The best we can hope for is to make our mistakes in new and interesting ways.
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[User Picture]From: fitfool
2008-04-03 02:59 am (UTC)
excellent post. Good to remember for all of us. I think it's especially useful for parents to keep in mind. It must be so hard to watch your kids make the very mistakes you tried to save them from.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-03 11:17 am (UTC)
Believe me, it is.
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[User Picture]From: trianakvetch
2008-04-03 03:14 am (UTC)
btw, mind if link to this post?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2008-04-03 11:17 am (UTC)
Linking is always fine.
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[User Picture]From: trianakvetch
2008-04-03 07:05 pm (UTC)
thanks!
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[User Picture]From: uplinktruck
2008-04-06 09:55 pm (UTC)
It is a matter of natural law that some people must learn their life lessons from personal experience. No amount of warning, or even watching other's pain will bring the lesson home.

Some people just have to put their hand on the pot belly stove.
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