The Façade of Adulthood
Written by Elliott Pak
“Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”
Remember when people in their 20’s and 30’s seemed like adults?
I remember I’d be running in the schoolyard, and the supervisors who were watching us and a solid amount of teachers were in their 20’s-30’s, yelling at us, scolding us, being all adult-y.
It’s not like you’d think about them so much, other than the fact that they were adults.
They drove cars. They had beards. They could eat fast food whenever they wanted (yet for some reason still ate salads).
It’s weird when you’re that young, you don’t really understand the concept of age and time so well.
There was just us, y’know, normal aged-kids (whatever age me and my friends happened to be at the time), the older kids (so intimidating), younger kids (insignificant), and then adults.
And all the adults were just in one category.
Why were they in one category? Us kids only spanned 18 years, yet there were so many different stages of childhood that we considered – pre-school and kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school, college…But the adults spanned another 80 years, yet still, all got bunched together.
Well for one, there was so much they knew that we didn’t know. So much so that it was almost unfathomable, so instead of trying to figure it out, you just bunched them into that category.
And in doing that, you just trusted them.
All adults know what they’re doing.
Man remember that feeling? That feeling of being taken care of by an endless sea of wise, all-knowing adults?
Everything’s okay because the adults are taking care of it. Dad’s taking care of it.
You didn’t know what he was doing, really, he was just doing something. That’s it. He was gone and then he came back and it was taken care of.
That feeling that everything adults did was for a reason. A good reason. Well planned out. Well thought out. That feeling that all adults basically agreed with each other, didn’t fight, didn’t make stupid decisions.
And then growing up and coming to that realization…that inevitable moment of learning that those adults that were taking care of things…
A lot of those adults were just as aimless as we were.
That realization that adults are just older kids.
That realization that there is no big “step” or initiation or divide to making it to adulthood. It’s just kids.
Kids who lived a couple days more and experienced one or two more horrible things that scarred them along the way to make them retreat to their safe opinions that they never even allow themselves to give a second thought to.
Kids who wake up with a few more wrinkles then they did the days before.
“As a child I assumed that when I reached adulthood, I would have grown-up thoughts.”
My students, man.
My kids. They think I’m such an adult.
It was children’s day in Korea the other day, and my kids were all telling me what gifts their parents got them and stuff. I wrapped it up by saying, with 100% seriousness mind you, “I wonder what my parents got me.”
And they all BUST UP LAUGHING. Like laughing WAY too hard.
“You’re so old you don’t get gifts hahahahahah funny hahahahaha”
I’m sitting here like wtf I was being serious I am not old you little shits –
I sometimes tell them stuff like that (not calling them little shits) but how I’m still a kid, how we’re not that far apart in age, and they just laugh and scoff and guess my age at like 35-40 and then I get pissed and make them do extra assignments.
Jokes aside, the point is they think I got things figured out. I got life figured out. I have some big school degree and I get a pay check and I know what taxes are and I buy my own groceries and schedule my own dentist appointments.
Sometimes I want to say to them, dude I don’t have a thing figured out. I’m still a kid. I really don’t know much.
I still drink like I’m in college and don’t wash the dishes in a timely manner and laugh at butt jokes and don’t separate my trash and get shy talking to girls.
I’m you. I was you like a week ago. I was literally dumping the sand out of my shoes like nothing minutes ago.
But they trust me so much. They ask me for advice. They listen to me when I discipline them. Their jaws drop when I tell them little stories from other parts of the world. They ask me what it’s like being an adult.
Same shit man, except I can rent a car and my mom doesn’t do my laundry anymore.
Everything else is the same.
I’m 25 now, and no one ever told me when to be an adult. No one ever tells anyone. You start prepping as you grow up, right? Dad yells at you for leaving the lights on…you stay home alone for the first time…you get your driver’s license…
Then all the sudden you’re kicked out on your ass and the government is sending you mail telling you to vote for 30 different seats in government of people you’ve never heard of before.
But generally you don’t really feel any different.
Maybe you notice small differences. Things you know you didn’t do when you were younger.
Now I’m unwinding after a long day of work, cooking a new recipe I saw on TV and writing it into a notebook like I used to watch my mom do when I was a kid.
Now I’m sitting here randomly realizing this is longest I’ve gone without smoking weed since I was 15 and that I haven’t had a god damn cigarette in over five years.
Now I’m going on dates with girls to places like arcades and getting my ass absolutely WHOOPED in every single game (except the basketball one) and leave the place with a pounding headache.
Now I notice that every hangover I have lasts about a minute longer than my last one.
Now, I find myself constantly trying to make children giggle.
And telling them to get home safe in the rain.
And to not forget their umbrellas.
And if they spill their drinks in my classroom THAT’LL BE THE LAST STRAW.
And do their damn homework.
And DON’T RUN DOWN the stairs Jesus I swear they’re going to fall every time.
I’ve literally turned into my elementary school teachers. And my mom. And my dad. And a whole bunch of other weird old farts from my childhood.
When did this happen?
*mentally retraces steps*
1) went to school
2) had a series of anxiety attacks and bouts of depression
3) left country
That’s it. Now I’m here.
There was no adult-iation along the way. There was a lot of fucking up and apologizing and exploring and drinking and laughing and dancing and yacking and daydreaming.
A lot of wondering when I was supposed to start feeling like an adult.
All of the sudden I got hundreds of kids looking up at me with big inquisitive eyes.
I’m here simultaneously feeling more adult and more like a kid than I ever have in my life.
When does it happen?
I ask my kids a lot,
What do you want to do with your lives?
It’s fascinating to me. I ask it all the time. They get annoyed because I ask them so much.
They’re like 7-13 so obviously a lot of them don’t have a clue.
“TEACHER I DON’T KNOW STOP ASKING”
“Well you should start thinking about it.”
“I don’t care.”
“Well what do you love to do?”
“I don’t know.”
My blood pressure rises and I get annoyed at myself for trying yet again. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a permanent state of eyes-rolling-into-the-top-of-my-head and a continuous deep sigh whenever I’m at school.
But some of my brighter students actually think about it a lot. I’m talking young. Like 10 maybe right? I’ve heard really creative thoughtful answers to the question, everywhere from diplomat to illustrator to architect to scientist to stewardess to veterinarian.
It’s fascinating to me because a lot of their aspirations are a billion times more mature than mine were at their age. (NBA player [starting point guard of the Lakers, all-time assist and 3 point leader], guy who makes cars for The Fast and the Furious, music producer / rock star, etc.)
One that really hit me though, one of my girls told me she wants to be a judge. A JUDGE. She is so smart and cares so much about helping people she wants to be a JUDGE. Not a lawyer. A judge.
I was so taken off guard when she told me that, I didn’t know what to say. I was so proud of her, for coming to this realization that I probably had absolutely no influence over. (If she becomes a judge in the future of course I will take all the credit, IRENE that was all because of ME remember when I said you should be a JUDGE yes of course me wow good job me).
It’s little things like that…It’s that adulthood – that maturity you usually see in older people – I saw it in my ten year old student.
Adulthood. I’m going to use that term a lot today, I think I mean maturity though.
Adulthood – nowadays, it’s been feeling a lot less of something that has to do with age and a lot more about the view from where you’re standing from.
I wrote that article about Not Being Afraid To Be An Amateur – this is touching that. Everyone is good at something, someone looks up to them for that. But everyone also sucks at something, and looks up to someone else for it, right?
We aren’t one thing to one person, we’re a bunch of things to many different people, depending on who it is and what exactly we’re talking about.
To some, maybe we’re an invaluable source of information and guidance because we’ve experienced more in a particular field, but at the same exact time we could just as easily be a complete newcomer to a subject. A student.
I mean to my students, I’m an English teacher. For all they know, this is what I prepped my whole life for, studied for, dreamt for (it’s not).
But I’m learning Korean right? Completely new. My kids know it, I’m not ashamed of it. I learn from just being around them when they talk amongst themselves. I straight up have to ask my tiny little kids what things mean.
Yeah you bet they get a fucking kick out of that.
With some of my younger classes, if they finish class early and they did particularly well, and I’m feeling particularly nice, we play this game called the Ellie Show. It’s not so much a game, or a show, so much as a chance for my kids to flip the tables and completely roast me.
Basically they say a word in Korean, and I have to try to spell it on the board (in Korean). I’m just good enough and just bad enough for them to think this is literally the funniest thing on planet earth. 75% of the time I’ll get it wrong and they’ll just torch my ass and laugh and laugh and go hysterical. I had a girl on the floor crying the other day. And if I get it right they all cheer like Korea just won the World Cup. Idk man, some things I gotta work really hard for in this classroom, this is not one of them. Easy points win or lose.
It usually devolves to half the kids gasping for air at their desks and the other half running up to the board grabbing pens and correcting me until the clock finally hits the hour and I yell ALRIGHT GET OUT OF HERE, they all run out of the class yelling BYE TEACHER, and I’m left there, slightly more educated on Korean and simultaneously feeling like a straight moron.
It’s that balance of knowing what you’re good at, taking pride in it, being able to express that skill either in a productive way or in a way that helps others get better – and at the very same time, being able to lower your ego to the point that you’re always able to learn something from someone, no matter where you are.
Taking that ego hit makes you be able to learn from anyone.
Sidebar, Your Hero Sucks.
One thing I learned early on was to not idolize anyone. To not have a hero.
At least not a hero that’s any real individual person.
Any one person will eventually let you down. They’ll disappoint you. Because they’re human.
All humans suck at some point. If you throw all your eggs in one basket, in one person, that basket will inevitably break.
They’ll have a bad day, wake up on the wrong side of the bed, say something they didn’t really mean – you’ll hear it out of context, it’ll disappoint you or break your heart, and if you really admire someone to the point of idolatry, that letdown will hurt really, really badly.
Then you’ll lose a level of faith and trust in all people, thinking that one out of context letdown is something that exists in everyone, so you put a shell around yourself so you don’t get hurt again.
It’s silly to idolize someone like that, for both parties. The idol too. For real I feel for the Justin Biebers of the world. Imagine being so idolized by so many people in your TEENAGE years that you literally couldn’t put a single toe out of line without being scrutinized by millions of people you don’t know.
(How many times have you heard some random dude just hear the name Bieber and go, “oh, fuck that guy.” Like what? You know him like that?)
Straight up if I had my teenage years on display like that and had to live up to some psychotic expectations of the world, I’d either be in a mental hospital or a casket right now.
But back to you and me and the people we look up to.
I chose to do something else a long time ago.
You have to create your own hero. A make believe one. And to build him or her, you have to take pieces and qualities that you admire from every single person. Create subjective perfection in your own mind, and do everything you can to become that creation.
Be a better version of every quality you’ve ever admired in your entire life.
That day Irene told me she wanted to be a judge, I admired that, because that was something I never would have even thought of. I took a piece of that, and added it to my hero.
Becoming that hero, that journey, I think that helps make you more adult-y.
Some people might think this is kind of obvious – shoot for something you want to be. But you’d be surprised how many people literally don’t aim to become any better than they already are.
Hopefully the kids have absent-mindedly taken a piece of me and added it to their hero. I sure hope they don’t just take me as I am, cause if they knew everything about me, they’d probably be disappointed.
“People never grow up, they just learn how to act in public.”
“Adulthood” has nothing to do with age.
It just has to do with your own view and experiences. Bet you never really considered a trait from a child to be “heroic.”
Every person will describe adulthood in a different way than other people, because they were raised differently. Because they have different responsibilities to deal with. Because they have scars that other people don’t have.
I got friends who got married and bought their own house in the hills like a day after college. I got friends who’ve traveled through a better percentage of the world. I got friends who’s kids are old enough to be my students. I got friends who can speak like a hundred languages. I got friends who’s lives are dedicated to non-profit and charity. I got friends who are chefs and athletes and writers and lawyers and business owners and movie-makers and nuclear engineers and mathematicians and musicians.
If you asked each of these people what’s most important to them right now, what their “adulthood” is, each one of them would give you a totally different answer, and they’d give it to you so assuredly and definitively that it would make you feel like shit about yourself and question everything you’re doing, because, well, your definition of adulthood is different, and you were never really taught that it was a subjective matter.
Don’t feel bad.
You do your thing, they do their thing. Don’t trip if it’s different.
But you should trip if you aren’t aiming up. If you aren’t adding pieces to your hero, your adulthood.
What’s adulthood to me? I don’t have a cool label like my friends up there, but here’s Ellie teacher’s:
- It has to do with responsibility and the ability to take pain, especially for others, especially for people who can’t handle it themselves, without them ever needing to know you did it. [from watching my dad]
- It has to do with taking care of everyone that matters to you and being able to do the hard thing if you know it’s the right thing to do, even if you know you’ll never get credit for it in your entire life. [from watching my mom]
- It has to do with standing up for things you believe in. Like actually SAYING something loudly in a room full of people who disagree with you or are too scared to have your back. [from a college professor]
- It has to do with being kind to people for absolutely no reason, not because they were kind to you, not because it makes anything equal – just because it’s an obligation to every single person who has the capacity to do it. [from watching the world]
- It has to do with admitting your faults, keeping an open mind, and continuously pushing yourself out of your own comfort zone. [from traveling]
- It has to do with not giving a fuck about what people think of you. [from noticing myself being the opposite and hating it]
- It has to do with doing things that will benefit your growth, even if no one else understands it, even if people end up resenting you for it [from some of my favorite authors].
- It has to do with dominating everything you put your mind to while having the humility of a saint.
- It has to do with looking at the big picture and making tough choices that support your dream.
Those are just a few of the things that define “adulthood” to me. There’s not a single one of these that I cared about when I was younger, or even just a few years ago.
Irene, the smart youngin’ in my class, makes choices that supports her dreams. She works so god damn hard on her work. Harder then I’ve ever worked for any classes by a mile. But she always comes in with a good attitude. Ready to work. She puts so much effort into learning yet is still so bubbly and always giggling and just has such a positive mindset about homework and other boring things that made me curse the world when I was her age.
I never did any of that. I was such a crappy student compared to some of the kids I teach. I never had that “work hard for what you want in the future” perspective.
So I look up to that.
Who cares about age. That’s something I never did and I admire it.
All those things I just defined as adulthood, I’m still well on my way to reaching the peak of them. Yet some people might think I’m great at them. Just depends where you’re standing.
They don’t know my full story, nor I theirs. So that mysterious divide exists between us, and maybe I am, to them, quite adult-y. (And if you asked people who’ve known me in a different context, they’d probably say I’m a lot more a reckless man-child running around places doing very non-adult-y things).
So much of this “mystery” exists between people, and that’s where admiration is born. Sometimes you don’t need to know anything else. Sometimes what you see is all you need to get inspired.
That mystery is actually a really good thing. That mystery keeps imagination alive. That mystery helps you set goals. Sometimes, if you know more, it’ll actually ruin it.
Contrary to the belief that being an adult is just a level or age that you reach, it turns out adulthood is just a very subjective set of values containing a million layers, depending on who you are and what you have or haven’t experienced.
And if you can understand that, it’s one of the most liberating experiences you’ll ever feel.
But there’s one extremely important step that stops most people from understanding this, and it’s dropping their ego. Admitting when they’re wrong.
Course, most people don’t want to admit how fucking dumb they are. Especially to kids. Especially to people that are “different” from them.
And that’s where the problem starts.
“I always looked forward to being an adult, because I thought the adult world was, well – adult. That adults weren’t cliquey or nasty, that the whole notion of being cool, or in, or popular would case to be the arbiter of all things social, but I was beginning to realize that the adult world was as nonsensically brutal and socially perilous as the kingdom of chidlhood.”
The more countries I cross off my list,
the more days I tack onto my life, the more controversial politics I see, the more I keep seeing this weird contradiction.
I keep seeing these grown-ass adults sinking into these self-made trenches of thought, making stupid, immature, selfish, fear-induced decisions without a second thought, while I keep seeing more and more young people doing what you’re supposed to do when you don’t know something: ask questions and find the correct answer.
I think there’s a real problem in society, I want to say right now, but I could fully bet it’s a problem that’s always existed.
And it starts out with humans, “adults,” needing to oversimplify everything.
This is right. That is wrong. This is good. That is bad. I’m a Democrat. I’m a Republican. Everyone in that group is a bad person. Everyone in this group is a saint.
End of story.
You see it everywhere. It’s the foundation of any of those shitty -ism’s. Racism. Ageism. Sexism. Stereotypes of all kinds. Any political issue ever. Or you see it in everyday life in things as simple as not liking or judging someone that you don’t even really know.
Millennials are fragile. Baby boomers ruined the economy. Mexicans are stealing jobs. Asians are nerds. Black people are dangerous. White people are racist. Women are too emotional. Men are all shit. She’s a whore. He’s a douche.
People want to simplify things because they’re fucking lazy and scared and unaware and unwilling to put in the extra work to separate people from labels.
People don’t want to believe that other people actually have layers and layers of complicated experiences that led them to their opinions that all normal humans have, just like you. It’s much easier to just go, “Oh we disagree? WRONG.”
Why do extra thinking when there’s a news station or a Twitter personality who can make your opinions for you?
Why use the brainpower to analyze and go through the steps of understanding something new and foreign to you when you can just resign to this useful stereotype template you have in your head?
It’s collectivism. It’s groupthink. And it creates toxic laziness.
People need to realize how important it is that we secure individualism in our opinions and qualities and to reject automatically resigning to collectivist thought.
Having individualistic thoughts is what separates us from the monkeys or the creepy people in those sci-fi dystopias where everyone’s bald and wears gray clothes and eats a pill for nutrition.
Life is a multi-layered labyrinth that straight up requires having multiple layers of thought. Realizing it is just another small step towards adulthood. But so many people, so many adults, stop growing at this realization.
People just get to a point where it’s just a little bit too much work, it’s just a little bit too hard to reach the next level of consciousness – so they say I’ll just stop here. They just decide to stop learning.
They stop learning, but the problem is they don’t stop forming new opinions. They don’t stop getting angrier. They don’t stop getting more confident in their own intelligence, despite the fact that they stopped learning.
That was my personal realization of how so many “adults” are just overgrown children. More specifically, it was realizing how many folks refuse to open their mind any more than it already is. How many adults live their lives in fear, never stepping out of their comfort zones. How many of them are actually just pretending to know what they’re doing, belittling others along the way to hide the fact that they are just as scared and unconfident as the next person.
Listen, anyone can live their lives the way they want to if they aren’t hurting anyone, but for those kinds of people to force their will on younger impressionable minds, pretending to know what they’re doing and passing on this lesson that you only need to learn to a certain point – that you only need to know one side of the story – that you need to stay in this little bubble – that sticking to your guns and opinions is more important than the search for new information – it’s insanity.
It drives me absolutely crazy to see that this kind of person is not only so damn prevalent in society, but that they are in positions of power.
Like when’s the last time you heard a public figure say “Hm, you know what, I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question, actually. Let’s find out together,” or just straight up “I was wrong. I was wrong, and now I have new information that has led me to change my opinion on something. I apologize.”
Yeah right, right?
Everyone has to pretend they know what they’re doing or what they’re saying to protect their fragile little egos. Just stick to your guns and let your kids deal with the consequences, because that’s what strength is.
Those people that will never admit when they’re wrong – those people are the worst to me.
This whole refusal of new information or admission of fault is embarrassingly frequent in politics. The left vs. right, the whole “us against the world” tribal mentality is ridiculous.
It almost feels like progress doesn’t even matter, because both sides will never admit when they’re wrong. Being “right” seems more important than actually working together to find the best, logical answer. It’s more important to just dig themselves as deeply as possible into their cozy little trenches, as long as they get validation from other people just as deeply nuzzled into the same trench.
Just take a look at politics on Twitter at all these little keyboard warriors who think they’re changing the world because they get the most retweets by using the cheapest, tackiest buzz phrases like “fuck Donald Trump” or “Millennials are lazy” or “I believe in the troops” or “all men are pieces of shit.”
It’s shamefully transparent that people aren’t looking for solutions, they’re just endlessly looking for validation.
No issue worth talking about can be covered in a tweet or a status or a clickbait headline. It takes discussion and research and time.
I’ve never lived in any time other than my own, but I gotta say it feels like this kind of behavior is being normalized now more than ever, and it’s fucked up.
And the worst part is, people are subconsciously passing these traits on to their kids or whatever moldable mind is closest to them.
I realized recently that I get really worked up about people who don’t set a good example for kids.
(Now there’s a statement makes me feel old.)
So I rant.
So what am I actually trying to say?
Well it kind of started out as this innocent, funny realization that adults don’t exist the way kids think they do, and me wanting to somehow communicate that to kids.
But I realized you don’t need to tell kids this. It’s their own job and part of their own journey to figure it out on their own, they don’t need me to explain it to them.
The real message is to the “adults.”
It’s a message to stubborn assholes who refuse to listen to the opposing side, or the younger people, or to anyone they think they are “above” – to lower their egos and open their ears.
There are people who believe they’re smart. Who believe they’re right. And that belief has led them to say they’ve learned enough, they’ve gathered enough information in life to be the authority on whatever it is. It leads to close-mindedness. These are the kinds of people who will never admit when they’re wrong, who will stick to their guns even when new information is presented that clearly contradicts them.
Y’know I could deal with these people if they kept it to themselves. But the problem is these people are often the loudest, dumbest idiots in the room.
Then there are people who realize how dumb they are. Who refuse to stop learning. Who understand how complex life is, and that there is no simple answer that applies to everyone in anything. Who are able to see there is no simple yes or no, black or white. Who are able to drop their ego enough to admit when they’re wrong, and search for the right answer. People who are able to laugh at their own faults. Who just want to learn and enjoy learning.
Open-mindedness – just the complete submission to the fact that we as humans are just really a lot stupider than our egos often lead us to believe, yet are still willing to do everything in their power to take that realism and still search for new truths, to the point where they will most likely even prove their own past opinions wrong. These people realize how different and complex every single person on earth is, and accepts them for who they are, rather than trying to force personal views on them.
Inexhaustible learners vs. tired egotistical losers.
Kids inherently have this amazing trait, because well, they don’t know that much. They’re always learning. Everything is new. They have no choice but to have an open mind and progress their points of view.
But when it comes to “adults,” it’s way, way harder. We’re not forced to learn and admit faults like when we were kids.
But there are people who do practice this, and it’s these kinds of people, the people who embrace this, that I respect more than anyone else in the world.
I don’t care about how smart or how right you think you are.
I care about how willing to show how wrong you were.
There was a man named Anthony Bourdain who was like that.
Although there are many people who are like this that exist on this planet – Bourdain was a very special case for a very special reason.
The reason is, this open-mindedness, this ability to accept one’s own faults, this ability to be a kid in the sense of always being open to learning whilst dropping ego –
It’s really, really not sexy.
Hollywood doesn’t like that shit. Politics don’t like that shit. News stations don’t like that shit. Twitter doesn’t like that shit.
Our mindless scrolling on our phones doesn’t like that shit. It just doesn’t catch our eyes the way strong, uninhibited opinions do.
Learning just isn’t sexy. Admitting when you’re wrong is soooo unsexy.
“Strong” people never change their minds.
Like look at this pathetic dude who changed his mind about something. What kind of pussy changes their mind about something? Who asks questions about things they don’t know about?
Turns out smart people do, my man. Smart people change their minds about things. Smart people ask questions.
In the midst of a bunch of celebrities and public figures who are constantly trying to impress the general public by bending over to whatever will make them seem the most agreeable, Anthony Bourdain straight up didn’t give a fuck about any of that.
He said exactly what he wanted to say, exactly when he wanted to say it. He never looked at people like they were lower than him, but rather raised up their cultures and opinions, even when he didn’t always agree. And most of all, he openly admitted when he was wrong.
He was the ultimate learner. He was making millions, but still went to third world countries to sit on the half-broken plastic stools and eat street food that was only popularized in times of great poverty and necessity.
He would straight up berate himself on his own tv show. How dumb he was in previous years, he would say, confronting mistakes he had made in the past on prime television. The Cambodia episode of Parts Unknown comes to mind. He showed some footage of his first time there and was just like… you ignorant, naïve, yada yada.
He was a learner who messed up so much in his life, and he wasn’t ever afraid to admit it.
I respected that so much. It’s one of the bigger pieces of my personal hero. That humility and ability to say that you were wrong. That thirst to learn more about what is actually right.
So rare to see that in the popular spotlight of culture. Not only in the popular spotlight of culture, but just in every day life. I mean who knows how much harder it is to do that once a significant population is actually listening to you and judging you. That’s why so many people loved him and respected him, and why he stuck out like sore thumb compared to all the other celebrities you see on TV.
The kind of person that I’m preaching people should be more like in this article – he was that type of person.
I was heartbroken to hear that he took his own life.
You can actually ask some close to me, maybe my sister remembers – I used to talk shit on Bourdain. I used to nitpick little things about his show and personality that irked me. I’d watch every episode, and then talk shit.
I was that guy.
But now that he’s gone, I realize I was just infinitely jealous of the man. I wanted to be like him, I wanted to be friends with him, I wanted to accomplish what he had accomplished, and I was just pissed that he did it first.
I’ve never told this next part to anyone in my life, but I guess I didn’t really even realize it ’til he was gone.
One random thing I used to daydream about all the time was to one day pitch a show or book to Anthony Bourdain.
In my dream…we would meet randomly in some off the radar country, y’know casually, I wouldn’t fanboy out or anything, I’d keep my cool and offer to buy him a beer and we’d become good friends over some exotic street food, and I’d slip in an idea I would have for a project.
Of course, in my daydreams, he would absolutely LOVE my idea (who wouldn’t) and he’d put me in contact with some people, and I’d have my own project with Tony. (Yes we’d get to the point of friendship where I could call him Tony).
This was a very real daydream of mine – if you know me at all, you know I have tons of career daydreams, being there’s about 1000 things I want to accomplish before I die.
But of course, this was just a dream. Something to humor myself with, something that wouldn’t ever really happen.
One time though, I was working with my cousin (who’s a hotshot VFX Coordinator in Hollywood, works on all these big movies). She got me a little gig on a movie set. (Pacific Rim: Uprising, if you’re curious.)
We were just shooting the shit and talking about future plans, and she said something, reallllllly in passing, something like “You would be so perfect to work on a show like Anthony Bourdain’s.” Doubt she would remember if I brought it up.
It was one of those situations where I kind of laughed it off and said “Yeah I wish,” but in reality I was internally screaming and wondering how hard I should push her to put me in contact with people immediately.
I didn’t really push, for no reason other than I’m kind of a pussy.
But her saying that kind of gave me that centimeter of validation to one of my many little dreams.
Ah, okay, so, maybe, just in case, IF I ever do meet him, I should have a couple things ready to pitch him. Just in case.
And I actually did. I came up with an idea for a show. I have a page on my OneNote for it. It’s somewhere in the deep back pockets of my ideas notebook, where literally over 200 of my silly ideas go to get buried.
But more importantly it was also one of the little nudges that gave me my first few ideas for a book. Many more events have happened that has further inspired my book forward, but this was one of the first notable nudges.
Yeah I have these dreams, but I’m not an idiot. Even though I knew I would never run into Anthony Bourdain on the street of some lowkey country, get to buy him a beer, have a meal long enough to pitch him an idea that he would inevitably LOVE…
It really, really bums me out that there isn’t even a chance that I could anymore.
Rest in Peace, Tony. Never got a chance to become friends enough to call you Tony, but I’m just going to do it anyway.
Thanks for the inspiration and not caring about what other people thought about you.
Thanks for giving a voice to people who otherwise wouldn’t have one.
Thanks for raising up and dignifying so many amazing cultures around the world that would otherwise never have had their stories told.
Thanks for admitting your own faults on an international stage when you didn’t even have to, so that other people could learn from you – learn that it’s okay to be wrong.
Thank you for adding so much to my personal hero.
Feels weird to have such a real, deep sadness about someone you’ve never met before. I can only hope that I will one day have that effect on people who haven’t met me either.
The world feels pretty tense right now, doesn’t it.
Everything feels so divisive. Every decision, every statement just feels like a powder keg ready to explode.
I’m not here to take sides about anything, that’s really not the point.
But I’m saying you can’t just choose one biased side and defend it to the death without even knowing the complexity of a situation. You can’t just pick a controversial issue to side with just to be fashionable. You can’t just hear some buzzwords on a news station and scream it at someone who disagrees with you.
Defending a real issue has real consequences, and it takes a real “adult” who actually knows what they’re talking about to do it.
The point is, if you really believe in building your knowledge, becoming a better person, and creating positive change, you have to drop your ego, you have to ask questions, you have to put in the extra work to understand all the different sides of an argument or situation, and you have to be able to admit when you’re wrong.
You have to secure your own individuality before you resign to moo-ing with the rest of the herd.
Be wrong guys. Be wrong, fuck up, admit what you did, learn from it, and do it all over again.
It’s a total contradiction to what society brings us up to believe we have to be as adults – grown-ups who are done learning, who are always right, who are unshaken in all opinions and beliefs.
In reality, having everything figured out isn’t what makes you an adult.
It’s almost the opposite. It’s continually learning with humility. It’s listening to all sides and objectively making rational decisions. It’s understanding that everything changes. It’s understanding that you really don’t know that much, no matter how much you think you know.
If you aren’t doing that, well, to me, you’re just a kid. Nah worse than a kid, being a kid is too much of a compliment.
You’re stagnant. You’re in the way. You’re an obstacle to progress, and you’re setting a bad example to young people who need to learn how to learn.
Don’t be that way. You might be able to hide behind your ego to people who aren’t paying attention, but let me tell you, real eyes can see right through it.
Be wrong guys. It’s okay. Admit it and move on.
Wish I could communicate to my kids that they sometimes act more mature than a lot of dummies my age.
(I mean I could but they literally wouldn’t give a shit)