In this fractious era of 24-7 news coverage, we all become weary of headlines and heartaches, Thus, it was enormously refreshing to launch another “installment” of Generation Gab. Time with our twenty-year-old grandson from Seattle, an honors mechanical engineering student. Be still my beating heart while I relive those two delicious one on one “interview” hours with Brad, who traveled across country to spend five days with his maternal grandparents. We had not seen each other for nearly two years. A time of incredible growth for Brad, physically, mentally and emotionally….an uplifting eye opener for his grandfather and me.
Perhaps one value of being a far-flung family is that when we are together after long lapses, the changes in each other are more evident. Of course, this is especially true when youngsters are morphing into young adults. The difference between high-school and college age students is obvious. In fact, in Brad’s case it is dramatic. Not only has this young man shot up to well over six feet two, but he has filled out, (wonderful abs and shoulders!!) grown a neatly trimmed beard, and overcome insecurities that marked his adolescence. He is relaxed and self-assured. The more we talked the more his grandfather and I realized that he is comfortable in his own skin. He is not afraid to swim upstream when many of his college contemporaries are swimming downstream, following the current of typical college whoopeedo behavior. That doesn’t mean Brad is boring or squeaky clean. It simply means that he knows who he is, what he wants to achieve in his four years of university life, and how he wants to leave his mark academically and socially. He is well on his way to becoming a critical thinker. Wow.
For example, one of the questions I asked him pertained to Sex. Yes, I did, and he was not the least bit taken aback by his grandmother! “Grammy, to me the Greek system is designed for hook-ups. STD (sexually transmitted disease) is rampant at his west coast university. And the truth is that some girls are just as guilty as boys. Hard to know whom to believe, as girls can retroactively withdraw consent the next day if both partners were drunk the night before. Therefore, guys can still be accused of rape, when in reality it was consensual…..casual sex is way too risky. It can ruin your whole life if a girl gets pregnant.”
Brad also shared with me that boys “use different tactics to get into bed with girls.” He told me how some “pretend commitment,” yet as soon as they divide and conquer, they “ghost” that girl. “What does that mean?” I asked. “Ghosting is a slang term for blocking communication with the girl, thus causing confusion for her.” In other words, once the girl succumbs to the guy, she is dropped like a hot rock. Brad thinks this practice is mean and ugly. He told me that many of his closest friends are girls; “maybe that is because I have an older sister…but maybe it is also because girls can trust me to listen to them and help them with their problems.” His high school “sweetheart” is in college in Texas, a music major, and although they stay in touch, there is no romantic attachment. These years academics take precedence…As I told our daughter, his mother, “Brad is an old soul, “and she totally agrees!
Even we Octos know that drugs are a big problem in the world today. In Washington state, marijuana is legal. Other states champion legalization of pot while other drugs are verbotten. Brad told me something else that was utterly new to me. Being a music lover and a dedicated jazz saxophone player in high school, Brad explained the meaning of a RAVE concert attended by many college students. As a fellow who admits that he “likes to follow rules,” he explained that at these RAVE concerts there are “lots of drugs,” mostly pot and molly whose main ingredient is ecstasy. Such concerts are prevalent in Washington. Even though the use of molly is illegal, the students smuggle it in, and authorities are apparently none the wiser, as they turn their backs. Brad says he has no use for those concerts.
According to Canadian clinical psychologist and professor Dr. Jordan B. Peterson in his 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, he reminds readers that he chose the title of his book “because of its simplicity. It indicates that people clearly need ordering principles, and that chaos beckons otherwise. We require rules, standards, values- alone and together…..we require tradition and values.” These are comforting words, especially when confirmed by the beliefs of one bright college student.
A last revelation: Brad’s views on marriage include “no set time frame” as to how long a young couple should know each other before taking the big step. “You need to know the person better than you know yourself,” he said, “and you need to see all sides of him or her.” Even if you are at an age when you might want to be married, “never settle!” As a traditionalist, Brad’s comments were measured as to whether or not a young couple should live together before marriage; he feels strongly, however, that he does not believe in random sex, as that creates “a climate of comparison.” He also says he will seek parental approval before he proposes to a girl, because “my parents have lived a lot longer than I have, and their instincts are good.”
Was Brad giving me answers he thought I wanted to hear? Was he sugar coating his values to fit mine? I feel sure he was not. He is an anomaly. All I had to do was observe his reactions to five days of living with John and me in our cozy retirement cottage. He is obviously secure in his beliefs, yet he is tolerant of those whose lives and practices do not parallel his. Where are this young man’s flaws? Since he is a human, of course they exist. They did not surface with us. My hopes and prayers are that Brad will keep going on as he is: learning, growing and guided by his faith, principles and strong moral compass. Truth be told he is a credit to his generation, as well as a reminder that the children of our Octo generation have spawned some value oriented young hearts and minds to keep this world turning on its axis in a positive spin, regardless of their political views.
Who knows, maybe some of these young men and women will carry the torch of traditional values, become excellent, journalists, talented entertaining comedians, and even high-quality candidates for public office. An exciting thought! My own wonderful mother’s voice echoes in my ear with one of her favorite sayings, “The cream always rises to the top!” ‘Tis true, for sure.