As yesterday’s story can tell you, I’m not very streetsmart in the least. Being a trusting person who grew up in a stable and loving environment with two parents, siblings, emotional and physical stability, going to church regularly, and a remarkable absence of substance abuse, I assume other people are the same way.
At my own peril.
The truth is that the way I grew up was already become rare in the 1980; at least half of the kids I grew up with had divorced parents.
I also didn’t grow up poor, so I didn’t learn those lessons people who’ve worked themselves out of poverty have learned (looking at you, Ed Latimore), but I’m happy never having experienced that.
The thing is, having a normal, stable upbringing is viewed as being a disadvantage.
I beg to differ in all but one aspect. Having a comfortable, stable background with loving, still-married parents has taught me plenty of things:
- The world is not unrelentingly depressing, mean, and horrible.
- Good people do exist.
- It’s okay to trust people, because many people are trustworthy.
- Hard work and discipline can pay off.
- Normal man-woman relationships for the purposes of raising children are not only possible, but worth pursuing.
- Family and legacy matter.
- It is important to be classy, in appearance, word, thought, and deee.
- Money doesn’t buy class.
- Money isn’t the source of all happiness.
And I never had a problem acquiring a work ethic. I always had summer jobs since the age of 13, and I and my siblings were expected to pull our own weight. I didn’t need to grow up in the ghetto to learn and appreciate the importance of hustle and grind.
So screw all that “Only people who grew up poor know how to hustle” nonsense. If this were true, than Venezuela is the hardest-working country in history.
Seriously, if this were true, all the world’s poorest nations should be the most advanced within a generation or two. But I digress.
Now about that one aspect I mentioned: I’m quite naïve.
At least, I used to be. I used to project my own trusting nature on to others, and then be crushed when it was proven false.
That’s the one thing a hardscrabble upbringing teaches at an early age that I had to really learn and internalize in my 30s: people are awful.
Seriously, I’ve become so paranoid and untrusting in a breathtakingly rapid fashion in the past five or so years. I’ve had plenty of experiences that have taught me this. Remind me to share one from my business school days.
I’ve learned not to take anything anyone says at face value, and to be suspicious about everything.
Isn’t that terrible? But please, I dare you, tell me where I’m wrong.
Anyway, it’s important to stay paranoid and never trust without verification.
Never trust strangers to do what they say they will.
Rarely trust colleagues to do what they say they will.
Trust your friends to do what they say they will . . . but be willing to be disappointed.
Trust your family to do what they say they will . . . but again, be willing to be disappointed.
I’ve learned the lesson that you can only rely on yourself to do anything.
I add caveat to this for us religious types: you can also rely on God.
But keeping this secular for Current Year, this is the lesson that it’s tough for those of us with good, happy, stable, and relatively affluent upper-middle-class upbringings to learn: you can’t trust anyone.
Maybe some of this is societal too. As America becomes less a coherent nation and more a multiethnic, Balkanized empire held together by threat of physical violence, as the very meaning of “American” is diluted, bastardized, and redefined out of all logical bounds, it’s only natural we’re becoming more and more of a low-trust society with higher in-group preferences than when I was growing up . . . especially as our formerly trusted institutions keep failing us over and over.
It’s sad, but that’s life.
My main question, though, is: how does one teach this without raiding a bitter cynic?
I am yet to see any child-rearing books or websites about how to teach streetsmarts and justifiable paranoia.