This story is a response to Amy Miller’s “Twenty-Four.” It is a story about how I became an adult.
But first, I hope you had a Happy Birthday Amy!
After I graduated from the college my parents sent me to, moved back to their house, and tried my hand at a few dead-end jobs I realized I had to make a change to myself and my life. I was 23, just about the same age as you, Amy. My much needed change involved moving a long way away, to Philly, with no friends or family there to support me, no place to stay past a couple of months, no money in my pocket, and no car. It was the first really important choice I made as an adult, independent of my parents’ input, and it was reckless, romantic, and stupid. But it all worked out. I found a job to help me pay off my loans, made new friends, played in a rock and roll band, and over time became who I am now.
All the worms you can eat, kids. Forever!
Now that I look back on those days I realize that when I decided to blindly jump out of the nest, that was the beginning of a journey from the shallow and unprincipled socialist ideas that we who were educated by unionized school teachers and went to progressive churches breathed, via the ignorant and self-consciously transgressive kneejerk social leftism of my rock and roll years, to the principle based classical liberalism of a husband and father who has faced divorce and managed to keep family and marriage together.
All those years spent chasing pleasure and grasping only disappointment: It was the choice to stop chasing pleasure, embrace my family’s needs, and consciously base actions on principle, that brought happiness. But it was the choice to leave my parents’ house and risk total failure that started me on the trip.
Imagine that I hadn’t been using my parents as a crutch but the government instead. What would I have had to do to get out of the nest if it was the size of the United States? Surely moving from the Midwest to Philly wouldn’t have been far enough. Even Mississippi, where I am now, wouldn’t have been far enough.
In the future will other 23 and 24 year-olds be able to find a place that is free enough for them to make their own way and become adults? I like to repeat the example of Admiral David Farragut, who shipped out as a midshipman in the US Navy at age 10 and commanded his first ship at age 12 (in the war of 1812). Will future Americans be forced to live their whole lives in an extended childhood, even longer than the already extended childhood we now call adolescence? Or will there be an opportunity for 23,18, or even 12 year-olds to make actual adult choices for their own lives? Will there be freedom or confining restraints, arbitrary limits, nonsensical mandates? Will government be a guardian of the unalienable rights with which we were created, rights that preceded and justified government, or a nagging, interfering parent we can never escape?
Or if you have studied the history of the 20th century on your own and recognize certain awful patterns in developments of the last ten years, and especially the last six months, will our own government be a boot stepping on a face for a thousand years?
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