The Fourth Commandment

I have some demons that don’t belong to me and I suspect I’m not alone, so I’m finally going to give voice to a lot of things about my life that I hope can help others.

I am usually, at least outwardly, calm, upfront and always clinging to self control. However, within my “everything is fine” candy shell, I am a mess of chaos, panic, struggle and a plethora of emotions I don’t even fully understand. For as long as I can remember, no matter what emotion was on the surface, I was always angry, anxious or somber. I have always been afraid of tomorrow. From childhood to now, I have been dealing with various forms of therapy, counseling and other means of trying to figure out what is wrong with me. I have always believed myself to be of above average intelligence and ambition, but something has always held me back and I’ve never been quite sure what. It remains a mystery to this day, but I have recently made adjustments that are opening my eyes.

I was born of parents who didn’t really like each other. Did they love each other during conception? Probably, but it’s more than clear they didn’t really like each other and their divorce made it even worse. I won’t go into specifics about who did or said what, because that’s not the point, but even through all of the depression, anger, anxiety and confusion, I never realized how much their issues impacted me. I mean, I knew it had something to do with it, but never so much until recently.

I was always told that parenthood changes you in profound ways and I definitely wish I could see how all three of my parents were before becoming parents. However, they come from a generation of always being right that was also governed by secrets and shame, so I doubt I’ll ever truly know them. What I do know, is that the birth of my daughter (even the pregnancy months) changed so many of my views on so many things. Many of these realizations are about the world, but the vast majority of them are about myself.

The biggest revelation I had about the world is that it doesn’t revolve around me, to go even further, it doesn’t even care about me. The world (or universe for that matter) simply exists and we exist in it. No one owes anyone anything, least of all their own children. I find that reverence for one’s parents is very widely taught, even Christianity’s fourth commandment is to “Honor thy father and thy mother” (I was raised Catholic on one side and Church of Christ on the other so please let me know if other Judeo-Christian faiths have different scripture). I think this is among the biggest mistakes in all of human history. It’s right up there with the invention of money, the creation of government and all forms of prejudice. Going backwards is against the natural order. Time moves forward, the same as bloodlines and evolution. Why should this be any different?

Even if that wasn’t the case, I’ll ask this. How many people asked to be created? How many parents have conceived a child at that child’s request? I’ll answer both with the same number: zero. Every person who has ever created a child (on purpose) has done it for themselves. I’m sure there are spiritual rationalizations to refute this in terms of a child wanting to be here, but that’s immaterial to my point. People generally create more people with thoughts of their own legacy in mind. Then many, my parents included, raise those children with that same mind state. They want what they believe is best for that child.

That’s not to say they are bad people for doing so, it’s generally a symptom of raising their children the way they were raised. Some take it too far and make things into a very strange and self-absorbed form of subjugation, but those are outliers (or so I hope). For everyone who does this and refuses to do different, I am telling you now, with no sense of ego or judgment, that you are doing your child a disservice. Intentionally or not, you are robbing them of their personal journey. The world you are raising them for is not the world you were raised in. Things don’t work the same way. An archer cannot train a rifleman. You have to adjust at the same speed as the world around you.

If you are wondering why your teenage or adult child is “randomly’ and “inexplicably” doing things you never thought they would do and going off the beaten path and experimenting or having violent outbursts, it’s because of you. You viewed them as less than you because you are older. You refused to communicate with them or take them seriously as a full person. You stifled them by telling them their dreams were unrealistic. You corrected behaviors you didn’t like, even though they were harmless. Now your child is having a hard time out in a world you don’t understand because you didn’t allow them to evolve and your only response is to tell them how they went wrong. Even as adults you still talk to them from a stance of superiority.

They may have failed in certain things, but that failure is a reflection on you. I’m all about personal accountability, so their mistakes are their own and at some point they have to break the cycle for themselves, but at what point do we truly examine the psychological implications of their conditioning. I use the word conditioning because that’s what it is. Humanity has very few instincts left. We rely far more on learned behaviors. What you are taught is what you believe to be true until some form of massive breakthrough. If a child is taught that dog shit smells like daisies all the way into adulthood, they will argue until they have turned a friend into an enemy without proof to the contrary. Hell, even then they might choose denial over changing what they’ve always known. This sounds extreme, but why are we refusing to examine things parents say to their children that affect their confidence or sense of self-belief?
I don’t want this to come off as bitterness against boomers due to my own experiences, but my own experiences are the ones I’m the most knowledgeable about. I’ve seen it in pretty much everyone I’ve ever encountered. Some will even quote things their parents have said that clearly had horrific psychological and emotional ramifications. Others will simply internalize the “lessons” without even realizing it. I’m of the latter camp and I’ll explain:

I was told to always have a back up because my dreams might not workout. Now I half-ass things of a professional nature because I don’t take jobs I’m not passionate about seriously and I’ve never gone all-in on my passions because I’m afraid I won’t be able to eat (or feed my child). Interestingly, I believe this has bled into my romantic life, creating a fear of commitment, but that’s a topic for another time (maybe, but probably not).

I was told black people don’t read comics/sci-fi/fantasy. I now know this to be immensely false, but for a long time, I wrote in silence and was terrified of even finding the proper resources to succeed.
I was told college was the only real road to success and even what I should major in. I got all of the assistance in the world registering for classes and signing up for debt.. Now I have tens of thousands of dollars debt that I am on my own with and lost years that could have aided in my current journey.
I could list things all day and night (lots of much worse conditioning that I realized was bad earlier and corrected) and all of these are things that I can work on, but they have slowed my progress down considerably. I’m not saying I’m completely devoid of responsibility for what’s been going on in my life, but I was also raised in two households who had radically different parenting methods and of my siblings, this is an experience that is unique to me as none of them had similar conditions.

However, with all of this in mind, my choices have been my own. Had my circumstances been different, perhaps I could’ve made better ones, but that’s behind me now. My only issue is that the effects of my conditioning are still hanging on today with no accountability for those who came before. I see it in me. I see it in everyone around me. I see it in the one who is struggling to figure out who she is. I see it in the one who is blindly loyal to his parents. I see it in the one who can’t figure out why no job makes him happy. I see it in the one who lacks empathy, but wonders why he can’t get along with anyone. I see it in the one who is climbing the corporate ladder, but despises every part of it. I see it in those who say terrible things under the pretense of joking because they don’t know how else to interact.

I implore any parent or future parent reading this: please communicate with your child with the intent to learn more from them than they do for you. Recognize who they are instead of forcing them to be who you want them to be. Let them chose their path and support it. They will adapt to the world in front of them better than you can teach them to because its what they were raised in. Back in your day is irrelevant. Focus on your child being a happy, complete and decent human being who is confident in what they do. You aren’t a bad person for wanting what’s best, but what’s best is the best educational, financial, moral, but mostly mental and emotional support. Encourage your children, genuinely encourage them. Don’t just do it because it sounds good. You have to mean it and trust them. It’s never too late. Even if your child is forty, call them and tell them you love and believe in them and watch their reaction, it might surprise you.
You are their sanctuary. Don’t treat them the way you think the world will treat them. If so, then blood is the only thing that separates you from anyone else they meet. If that’s the case, what’s the point of being their parent? Those blood ties should come with unconditional love ties. Revere them. Honor them.

To any child reading this and is struggling to communicate with your parent. Feel free to show them this if you think it will help, but ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for you and follow the path you chose to discover who you are. Love your parents anyway and forgive them. They were just doing what they thought was best based on what they knew. You have the power now. Question everything you have been taught until you find both facts and your own truth.

I have demons. Their names are anxiety, depression, imposter syndrome, self-doubt, fear, anger, confusion and so many more. I am writing this at 4:30 am because they kept me awake. Please don’t let them into your life and if they already are, fight them until they no longer exist. I hope this has helped at least one person.