Give up or Grow up? A Commentary on Responsibility

2:34 PM Marcellino DAmbrosio 1 Comments

What does it mean, growing up? This is a question that I asked myself today as I looked down at the pair of woman’s jeans that I was currently folding. They were slightly bleached and very precisely cut at the knee for the elegantly disheveled look that kids are going for these days. Every pair of jeans in the stack was exactly the same. In fact, every pair of jeans, every t-shirt, every single piece of clothing in this store shared the same mass produced, one of a kind of look. I spent my summer afternoons folding, re-arranging, and ordering unending stacks of this clothing for Rhuel, an offshoot of Abercrombie and Fitch, or “The Company,” as the employees warmly referred to it. This particular afternoon was different, for this afternoon, as I looked down at the jeans, instead of simply accepting the fact that college kids work minimum wage jobs over the summer, I asked the question. This question is what drove Plato to write the Republic, caused Socrates to kill himself (or get killed, depending on how you look at it), and also caused many a student to play Halo and forget about Plato and Socrates. In fact this is the question that makes us human. I asked: “why?”

MY DEATH WILL BE REMEMBERED FOREVER!!.... at least until they invent x-box
Now, there was a good reason why I asked the question “why,” and that reason was because whilst I stood in a poorly lit clothing store folding over priced and slightly trendy jeans, my friends where just a few miles away crowd surfing their way over thousands of screaming fans to the front Warped Tour’s center stage.
Pictured above: Not me
I hope that the agony in my being at this point has really hit home to you. If not, then you obviously need a lot more help than this article can do for you. However, if you do understand my pain, realize that it only increases from here for the following reasons: Firstly, I have never been to Warped Tour, and I’ve always wanted to go, for the obvious reason that I was in a band all throughout highschool. Secondly, that band that I was in, in highschool, was actually playing on a side stage at the very same time that I was folding these jeans.
I bet you are asking why the hell I wasn’t pumping my rock fist out there with my compadre’s right now. The answer to that question came from my parents the night before. “Because you have to grow up sometime,” they told me. What they meant was I needed to learn fiscal responsibility. What I heard was “Your life is over.” I really felt that way. I sat there folding jeans as the world of possibilities that I always envisioned was beginning to narrow.

This is fiscal responsibility kids. Take a good hard look. 
All I could think about at that point was a sitting at a table in my university’s cafeteria, advertising for one of the many events I put on. I genuinely believed that there was real value to attending a concert or dressing up in some ridiculous costume for a party. It brought people together, built community, it brought down the walls between the many clicks. But countless times, I would get a puzzled look and an immediate “maybe,” which, as we all know, means “no.” They would tell me how they had to study for some test they had coming up in the next few days, or write a paper that was due a week later. Sometimes it would be that they didn’t have the five dollars it would cost to participate. Sometimes, after suggesting that they borrow money, study instead of staying up late watching movies the night before, or requesting off work and trading with someone, they would inevitably say, “I just can’t.” They never even tried. Another thing that I noticed throughout the year was that it was always the same people that gave excuses as to why they couldn’t participate in college life, and more importantly, they where all completely and totally miserable, just like me and my overpriced jeans. I had become today what I hated most. I hadn’t just given up warped tour. I just plain gave up. I was no longer the kind of person that could do anything he wanted. Now that person had car payments and “fiscal responsibility.” My love of living went with my freedom out the window.
More often than not, this is what us Americans term, “Growing Up.”
“A man’s not a man until he pays taxes,” my Dad had said last night, as he attempted to talk me into sticking around the Fourth of July weekend and picking up extra shifts at work. I hadn’t even dared to tell him about Warped Tour, I could only imagine what his ‘fiscal responsibility’ would make of that bright thought. What he meant was that one becomes a man when he learns how to be responsible with his money. Car payments, phone bills, mortgages, not to mention insurance; in order to be an adult, one needs to keep these in the forefront of one’s mind, and apparently, that means sacrificing everything else in your life. We are all too familiar with the absent father, a pawn of a corporation that is more important to him than his family. He works long hours, goes on long business trips, and lives in the office. But that’s what it takes to feed the family right?

I’m quite familiar with this concept of “Growing Up.” I see it on the face of every freshman when he sees the first “C” he’s ever made. You see, freshman always come into school with spirit, full of idealism and ready to change the world. They participate in everything, they start new clubs, new sports, new fraternities and households, and then once they’ve over committed, they get their midterm grades back, and many of them inevitably have failed to budget their time wisely and where ill prepared for college by the public school system. All of the sudden reality comes crashing down around them, and their ideals vanish like the last bubbles of oxygen from drowning lungs. Now, the once bright young men and women, full of potential and dreams of change are welcomed with open arms into American Adulthood. They hole themselves up in the library, or in their dorm rooms, and no longer do they believe that they can have any effect on the world. No, it is all they can do just to pass their classes, graduate and get a job. They don’t even have the time to come to the occasional Open Mic Night.

The funny thing though, is that those same students that believe that they are having such a hard time passing their classes that they can’t get involved can be found on that very same evening, watching youtube videos at two in the morning with their friends. Those same students that say, “I don’t have five dollars,” will be found a couple days later buying an expensively fashionable cup of “free trade” coffee at the local coffee house. I’m starting to think that “Growing Up” should be substituted for “Giving In.”

I contemplated this as I took care to fold another pair of jeans so that the destroyed hem could be easily seen by the mindless consumer. I placed it on top of the eight inch pile and picked at it until all of the size stickers lined up perfectly. I was done. All of the jeans looked exactly the same. I exhaled a short unfulfilled sigh of completion, and looked up to see that all of my fellow workers wearing the same damned jeans that I just folded. I realized that they all looked exactly the same. They had the same hair, with just enough sidebang, all elegantly disheveled. They had the same grey v-neck t-shirts, with little variance in frayed lettering on the front. All of my coworkers, along with looking the same, shared something else in common. They where all students, working here so that they could go to college, so that they could get a corporate job, so that they could live in the same quaint little house, in the same quaint little suburb with a quaint little picket fence, and live for the quaint little weekends and Monday morning hangovers. Maybe C.S. Lewis was right to envision hell has a rainy suburb in which everyone was constantly moving farther away from each other. It was right then that I caught sight of myself, along with my breath, in the mirror. Today I had on a grey v-neck with elegantly disheveled sidebangs. I had on light jeans with holes at the knees, and I shared with my co-workers the same blank look that can only be worn by someone with nothing to live for. I almost broke down on the spot. I finished out my shift as anonymously as possible, and came home, went strait to my room, and cried my eyes out. Now that I was an Adult, with car payments and bills to worry about, I had little choice but to give in.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe “Growing Up” really means sacrificing everything you’ve ever wanted, dreams and all. That night, I told my dad about everything that I was feeling, that I had sacrificed a concert, and not just a concert, but a dream, just so I could pick up a shift at work. He handed me a cold Sam Adams, and sat me down on the leather couches in the living room. He began by asking my forgiveness for not explaining himself better the night before. He had not intended to scare me into “Giving In.” He then proceeded to tell me how he had been a graduate school professor. He wanted to support his family, he wanted to send his kids to private school, he wanted to evangelize in a bigger way than his current job allowed him to do, so what did he do? He quit and started his own business with Wellness International Network. Now he’s got three kids in private Catholic University and his other two in Catholic school at home. We went as a family to Israel last Christmas on a pilgrimage he led, and we are going on a cruise together this summer. Most people could never dream of that kind of lifestyle, and that is precisely why they don’t have it. He ended with one short statement that I will always treasure as one of those defining moments where a father’s legacy is passed on to his son. He said:

“We do not live so that we can work, we work so that we might live.”

By live, I understood him to mean not just eating and drinking and having a roof over our heads. He meant LIVING, experiencing life, savoring it like you would savor a big juicy steak with your grandma’s mashed potatoes on the side. Living means making the sacrifices necessary to make your dreams come true, not sacrificing your dreams for a roof and a steady salary. You should never settle with forgoing life for existence. One of the most important lessons I learned from my father that night was that if you want something bad enough, you will make it work. Fiscal responsibility is not sacrificing your dreams so that you can exist, its not picking up a shift at work instead of going to the concert you’ve always wanted to attend. Fiscal Responsibility is drinking tap water instead of buying it bottled. Fiscal Responsibility is eating ramen noodles for a week strait. Fiscal Responsibility is going to freeking Warped Tour.

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1 comment:

  1. Excellent job pointing out the many perils and evils of base capitalism, Comrade!