The Y of Living Imperfectly: Forever Young and Gen Y #atozchallenge

So many adventures couldn’t happen today
So many songs that we forgot to play
So many dreams swinging out of the blue
We let them come true

Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever, forever?
Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever, forever?

From Youth Group – Forever Young Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Y Challenge Letter The thought of living forever seems a double edge sword. As I age, the notion of quantity of life is giving way to quality of life. Of course, this is a personal choice for everyone, but to me, I want to make the days I have left count and to squeeze the most out of them.

I have written before on this blog about thinking old v thinking young and how at this age and stage, the difference between the two approaches becomes more striking. For our perceptions and choices at mid-life seem to have a large bearing on older ageing. At least that’s what it seems like to me . I really feel like I’m at a cross-road at this point, needing to decide whether to think young or think old.  Any decision or choices I make on the score will impact on how I set myself up for the second act.

Ha, I’m still talking as if I am not in the second. Possibly denial, but I would like to think of it more a long the lines of young thinking. For as long as I think young, I can stay in the first act. Thinking forever young works for me.

Being bit of an upside down, back to front person, I feel like I have moved beyond the stage of older thinking in my life. By older thinking I mean being driven to the totally practical because of perceived risks.  This sort of thinking came in my twenties and thirties at a time when everyone else around me was thinking young. Whilst I can’t deny that it served me relatively well, I can’t help but feel there was a price I paid for it, namely regret.

Which is why I have made the decision to age disgracefully imperfectly.

 Need to be careful not to sound like this

Need to be careful not to sound like this

I had a great discussion this morning with my eldest about following your heart and having the confidence to do so. At the age of 19 these are weighty issues to consider, mostly because at that age the heart may not be giving you consistent signals if it is giving you any at all. And as a parent discussions like these are a real tightrope walk, because the practical always threatens to intrude along with the notion of what we would do in a similar situation. The natural instinct of a parent is to prevent pain and suffering for their child, but if we don’t let them have these experiences how are they to learn? Vicariously through others? A lot of adults live their life that way, but to me that’s even more risky because learning through the mistakes of others tends to lead to living through others. I’d rather have my boots on leading the way. And it’s not what I want for my children. However it is their choice.

So it’s why I now find myself in a postgraduate media class at university filled with a bunch of Gen Ys. The experience has been interesting and for the most part I enjoy it. There are a lot of bright young things out there and I believe the world’s future is in good hands if these kids can ever get on the job experience. The necessitymature age student meme of graduate qualifications to getting a job in today’s competitive world has been rammed home to me. Most of the “kids” in my class have started their postgrad education immediately after finishing their bachelor degrees, some with a total change in discipline. They compete for intern positions to build their CVs and with the hope of landing a full-time job, eventually by the time they are in their mid twenties.

This is very different to my undergrad days when postgrad degrees were a sign of “going the extra mile” for advancement. They were therefore regarded as optional until a career move made it essential. Because of my love of learning I actually had only one year from when I finished by bachelor degree and started my postgrad degree. But that was highly unusual and well, I’m weird like that.

So following your heart and making it in this world as a young Gen Y is not easy. Following your heart at any age is not easy, but I think it’s essential to thinking forever young.

How Much Is A Child’s Year Really Worth? #NaBloPoMo

More on the parenting teens theme today given this is what is taking up most of my head space at the moment.

At this time of life when asked my age, I often jokingly answer in dog years. This not only paves the way for further discussion, but also serves as an ice breaker and a youth elixir of sorts. My recent parenting teens experiences leads me to question whether 18 years of a child’s life today has the same equivalency as 18 years of a child’ life, say growing up in the 50s, 70s or 80s. Or is it like dog years and equivalent to something less so that ageing in the new millennium like the value of money is decreasing in effectiveness over time?

I met a wonderful woman today in my Zumba class who also happens to be the mother of two boys. Her boys are older than mine, adult clockaged 19 and 22. We were of course sweatily comparing parenting experiences, have just shaken our wobbly bits on the dance floor for the last hour during class. She was exclaiming how both of her boys were now just starting down the tertiary education road after having travelled for a while and taken bridging courses to gain entry into university in this country. She was very proud of her boys going down this road, as she herself had not done so and wished that she had. Anecdotally she advised that most of her sons’ cohorts had also not started university straight after finishing school, but had chosen to travel, work or taken a gap year.

In the ehemm…three decades (or 4 or so dog years) since I was 18, there seems to have been a shift in how an 18 year old sees the world. We often hear that life for children is more complicated today – faster paced, more competitive and just more. There is no doubt the information age has brought with it an array of options for an 18 year old that were not available to us at that age, or not as easily accessible. For example, many 18 year olds place a premium on seeing the world and are more well travelled than most adults. Through those travelling experiences, the world of living, working and loving in a foreign land is now a reality for our 18 year olds.

But does having all these options mean that the timeline for 18 year olds have been pushed out? Is 23 the new 18 and is 18 the new 15, but with drinking, voting and driving rights thrown in (note in Australia the legal drinking age is 18)? At what point should a person get down and get serious about their life path instead of behaving like human flotsam and jetsam? And is this really necessary now anyway given that home affordability no longer seems a reality for most 18 year olds and there is no guarantee of employment after university graduation?

Am I creating a rod for my own back by insisting that my children study ahead of playing computer games and that they strive towards something other than just living for today?

life path signageI certainly don’t believe that the life path I chose is necessarily the best one for my children. We are all unique and each person should be free to choose their own path. But I can’t help thinking that perhaps we are asking our children to make their choice before they are properly equipped to do so. Are these decisions that should be postponed until my children are 21 or 22 after they have acquired a bit of life experience? Life experience that had they grown up in the 50s, 70s or 80s they would more likely have had by now?

I still have more questions than answers at this point, but I can’t help thinking that it just a different world with different challenges to when I was 18.

They say you can’t put an old head on young shoulders, but maybe it’s possible to put some old shoulders under a young head to offer support and guidance pending launch time.

Any feedback you wish to provide on these issues will be most gratefully received.

A Letter to My Son On Entering University: The Journey Continues

By far and away my most popular post has been about the letter I wrote to my son on his final school year retreat.

Titled, A Letter To My Son: Reflections On A Journey it contained my thoughts and messages to my 17-year-old son as he was about to face the toughest academic year of his young life. Each day the post is read many times. It seems many of us parents are looking for inspiration about what to say to our teenage children, particularly on reaching high school graduation. My readers for this post come from all over the world and the issue seems to transcend geographic borders.

So in keeping with this theme, I am posting my next letter to my son who thankfully survived his last year of high school and just this week started university.

Uni grads

As parents, we often feel that the wisdom we try to impart goes unheeded. But I have a small, sneaking suspicion that when we turn our backs and when the going gets a little tough it is our voice that our offspring recalls, our words that are headed and our example that he follows. So in that vein, here is some of my Curtain Raising Wisdom. You never know, when my children are in their thirties and are parents themselves they might even acknowledge that I made some sense.

And so to the letter:

Dear J,

Without preamble or fanfare, let me say I am proud of you. You are now a high school graduate and a university freshman and at the start of what truly is a great adventure.

You will have heard a lot of people say that the university years are the best of your life. And they are right… to a point.

Much awaits you at university, it now all lies at your feet and ahead of you. Step carefully, son of mine as there will be many a siren call to tempt you from your path. You are now an adult of drinking age [note to US readers, the legal drinking age here in Australia is 18], and you will, for the first time, be surrounded in your academic endeavours by members of the opposite sex. Enjoy their presence and learn from them. Learn from their organisation, enterprise and their studiousness. Learn the subtle interplay between male and female, but always remember to practice respect and equality and above all, safe pleasure.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Mix with the rest of the university population as this is your chance to make life long friendships from a wide circle. Trust me, friendships don’t get deeper than if you have sweated together at 3.00am the night before an assignment is due and neither of you has a clue what the question means. Make friends with people who are studying towards degrees other than your own, pick their brains, let them pick yours, ask questions, think broadly and enjoy the quest to find the answers.

At university no-one takes attendance. Whether you attend lectures and tutorials is up to you. However, as usual with freedom comes responsibility and your own destiny now lies more in your hands. Remember when your high school teachers told you what to read, how to answer a question, where to find resources and reminded you that assessments were due? All that has now stopped and it is up to you to work out what needs to happen and how to get to the end goal. It may be hard at first, but persevere, because this is where you will learn the essential life skills of initiative, self-reliance and resilience.

Enjoy the freedom of having time to work whilst studying, but do not be lured by the false promise of immediate and easy cash. Working is great and offers you a lot of freedom, but do not be lured by the instant gratification of what appears to be easy independence. You will earn more money than you have ever had, but keep your eye on the bigger goal.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

You are laying foundations and foundations need to be strong and solid. They take time to build and time to settle. It really is true when they say nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. Perhaps if my words don’t resonate then the words of 50 Cent from the 50th Law might:


Your father and I believe in you and trust that you have the right tools to see you through the next four years. Go after some of the shiny, shiny distractions, but never forget why you are at University and never forget your dream. Shiny looks even better once you have taken care of business.

Enjoy this time and enjoy all that is to come. It is a parent’s biggest joy to see their offspring fly.

Did you have some great memories of Univserity/College? Do you remember your University/College days? Did you divert from the acadmeic path only to come back to it again in later life?

A Letter To My Son: Reflections On A Journey

When Steve Jobs passed away I, along with millions of others, watched his Stamford 2005 Commencement Address on YouTube. Whatever else you may think of Steve Jobs, his words in that speech were profound and the message strong and important. I have always wondered what I would say to a graduating class if asked. I know the request is in the mail and one day the postman will discover my mail box. I’m right here, see… waiving at you!

An opportunity arose recently for me to write a letter to my 17 year old son, reflecting on the impending conclusion of his formal school education and journey through the books…. and stationery. Let’s not forget the stationery, you’re looking at a HUGE fan of stationary. Stationery porn is so evil and so, so goooood! But I digress.

My son is in his last year of high school and facing the biggest academic test of his young life in November. Unlike the US, entry into university here is usually totally based on the score in this particular exam (called the HSC), which takes place at the end of year 12. There are no individually tailored university entry applications, no essays and no interviews. You are a score, that’s it.

The school took the boys away on a 3 days retreat to reflect. As part of that retreat parents were asked to write a letter to their sons which was to be given to them on the last day as a surprise. This folks, is my kind of homework. At last I had the opportunity to articulate in the written word, my thoughts, hopes, aspirations and gratitude to my offspring.

Let me share a version of what I wrote. The letter is from both the Italian Stallion and I:

We were so glad when the school gave us an opportunity to write this letter to you. By the time you read this your retreat will be almost over and the next phase of your road to the HSC will begin. We hope you have had time to relax after the effort you put in for the “minis” and to think about not only the future, but how far you have come since starting Kindergarten in 2000.

We know that this is both an exciting and scary time for you.  Exciting because the end of your school years draws ever closer and come late November you will be able to ditch the uniforms and structure that has been with you for over twelve years. But with the excitement, there must also be a degree of trepidation about having to take responsibility for your academic future, about stepping into the adult world and all the inherent responsibility that those steps bring. You have every right to these emotions – they are a natural part of this phase of your life.

As you contemplate your future, we want you to know that we are proud of you. Whilst the journey has not always been easy, the strides that you have made towards maturity and taking ownership of your decisions over the last 18 months or so have been wondrous to watch. You are becoming quite the young man, a witty, intelligent, sensitive (that’s ok, you don’t need to admit that last one) guy who understands the meaning of family and team. We know that no matter how hard Mum [me] tries, her cooking will never match your grandmothers’, but we truly appreciate how you act towards and deal with your grandparents. Then there is the relationship with your brother, a quirky little brother who looks up to you and for whom you look out for, even it if it is on the sly.

We hope you take with you in life the skills you have learned in baseball. One of Mum’s best memories of recent times has been on the drive with you to [XXXX]. Mum will never forget that you discovered live baseball streamed radio together and that she was with you when Albert Pujols made his debut for the Angels. Your baseball talents are many and whilst it has taken a back seat this year because of study, we know that if you want to pour your energies into it, you will succeed. Whether it is as an outfielder or a pitcher the baseball world is yours for the taking. But above all, we hope that you keep having fun with baseball.  Remember, no matter what T-shirts or baseball caps Mum wears, it’s Red Sox forever and we WILL get back to Fenway one day in the not too distant future.

So, as you approach the HSC and the culmination of 13 years of schooling, all we ask of you is that you approach these next six months with a view to doing your best and being the best you can possibly be. The final result doesn’t matter as long as you have done your very best. We say this because whilst the HSC is important, life will throw you bigger tests. The mark of a true man is how he faces these tests – results are always secondary. You should obviously aim to achieve the mark you need in the HSC for your chosen field of university study and put all your energy into that aim. However, the HSC is not the only gateway to achieving your academic goals, there are other less direct ways. The HSC gateway though is the one where you play centre stage, where you receive the maximum support and mentorship and takes the least amount of time. J, the HSC is both a test and an opportunity and we hope you see it as such.

Whatever you decide to do after school, we want you to be happy. Look inside yourself and identify your passions, the things that make your soul sing and follow the path where these shall lead. Live YOUR dreams and no-one else’s. For this, J is THE secret to happiness and fulfilment.

For the journey over the next six months, take with you our (and your brother’s) support, cheering from the sidelines and most of all, our love. Think big and dream large, your options are many. Thank you for being our son, for adding your uniqueness to our family. Thank you for making us laugh and keeping us on our toes. Thank you for being responsible and for (the most part) being a good example to your brother. Thank you for texting your Mum at 12.06am on new year’s eve to wish us happy new year on our first new year’s eve apart. These are the fundamentals that will make you the good man you are destined to be. You rock (even if your music sucks!).

We love you always

And the response? “It was good”. Three little words with such power that had me soaring.

What message would you send in similar circumstances?

Saturday Soapbox: Taking Responsibility And Owning It

Here I am feeling all mellow and inspired from my road trip only to read about this piece of litigation lunacy.

Briefly, a Victorian student (let’s call her R) is suing her former high school in Geelong for failing to provide adequate academic support to enable her to gain entry into a prestigious law school in Sydney. In addition, R’s mother is suing the school for compensation for rent and loss of income from her fortune cookie business as a result of relocating to Sydney. R claims that she never felt adequately supported academically whilst at the school to enable her to REALLY excel. R was allegedly criticised for using words that were too long in her essays which lead to R losing confidence in her essay writing abilities. This loss reportedly caused R to become “quite distressed” when her English marks began to fall.

Created by Theodore Eadman
Law School Memes

Entry into this particular law school requires a student to effectively rank in the top 0.3% of all students in the State. Places are highly sought after and the university has produced some of Australia’s greatest jurists. However, it is by no means the only law school in Sydney and certainly not the only law school in the State.

With the greatest of respect to R, she is in denial, and no… it is not that river in Egypt.  I know what R must be thinking, this must be someone’s fault, right? There has to be someone to blame, someone has to pay because R’s life plan didn’t work out to the letter?

Somehow, somewhere along the way, we as individuals seem to have lost the art of owning the consequences of our actions. The notion that we are the masters of our own destiny seems to have been usurped by a notion that our destiny is controlled by those persons and institutions with whom we have had contact, particularly those with potentially deep pockets. These persons and institutions have somehow adopted a greater responsibility to us than we have for ourselves.

I have long been concerned about the current trend to constantly reward our children for just being. When my sons were in primary school they received merit awards for “being entertaining members of the class” and “for faultless class attendance”. Whilst they also received merit awards for good behaviour and academic achievement, I found these aforementioned “token” merits disturbing. To me there was nothing meritorious about them – they served no real purpose other than to enforce a sense of entitlement. Positive enforcement is one thing, but rewards should be reserved for achievement over and above the norm (including a person’s individual norm).

There are no guarantees in life and no guarantees to entry into law school or indeed, university. Entry is handed out on academic merit and students should not feel entitled to a place. It takes hard work, persistence and sometimes a detour or two before you get to where you want to go.  And sometimes, there is just no logical reason why a person makes it or doesn’t make it. Call it bad luck, bad timing or whatever….sometimes crap happens. Crap does not necessarily justify a legal remedy.

The case continues in August.

In the meantime, I leave you with these relevant fortune cookie sayings:

The world may be your oyster but it doesn’t mean you’ll get its pearl

Skill comes from diligence

Do not mistake temptation for opportunity

None of the secrets of success will work unless you do

And remember, dear readers ….this blog has a protective coating.

Have there been any court cases that have left you scratching your head?