In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Nick Jurczak reflects on the various lessons that his parents taught him that you’ll never learn in college.
I don’t necessarily claim to be a good man. Most of my life, I would venture to say, I haven’t even been close to being one of the best men that I’ve known. It’s always been easy for me to be angry, narcissistic, impatient, and in the past sometimes I’ve been downright violent because exerting self-control was a tad bit difficult, and many times I’ve gotten myself hurt because of it.
As I grew up though, I started to become more calm and rational and a lot of this rationality came from various lessons that my parents taught me. Those two human beings who were so different in demeanor helped me to forge my path into who I am today. Given that Thanksgiving is coming up, I want to thank them by spreading their knowledge to those who are willing to listen to me.
Lesson 1: “Use your words”
As I said before, sometimes I was downright violent, especially as a child. Having a twin brother who knew how to push my buttons really didn’t help. Many times he would say something small or do something purposely to irritate me and my first reaction was never to tell him to stop. Rather I would ball up my skinny, bony fist and try and punch him wherever I felt like it would hurt him the most without making him cry. Usually my first contact was met with a swift and harder resistance of a punch to my gut. After I caught my breath, I would be back after him and the fighting wouldn’t end until my mother would come and separate the two of us.
When she would talk to me about the incidents, she would always give me the same three words, three words that I feel should be tattooed somewhere on me: “Use your words,” I never quite understood why fighting wasn’t a good answer so I still fought him, that is until I drove my knee into his back during one of our fights.
As he was lying on the ground, crying, I started to realize just what violence does. It didn’t make me feel better; I only felt worse pain than before. I watched him cry and started to fear myself and the things I actually could do to someone if I wanted to and from that day on I tried harder to use my voice rather than my hands. It was still difficult, but I strived to make sure that I didn’t hurt anyone that badly again.
Lesson 2: “There’s a time and place for everything”
As a child I also had a tendency to have a wild imagination. While others played kickball or tag on the playground, I was the one who was by myself, in my own little world, playing a pretend game. I did this wherever I went. In the store I would still be playing. My mom’s van was an intergalactic transport and I was a Jedi knight on my way to fight the empire. I would make lightsaber sounds and at the time I didn’t know just how embarrassing those moments were for the person who took me to the grocery store.
It wasn’t until one time I was still playing as I crossed a street that I began to understand how bad it was to constantly be in my fantasylands. I ran across the street with my cousin whom I was playing along with and missed getting hit by a car by only a couple of seconds. When my mother and father got across the street, they told me just how scared they were and that “There’s a time and a place for everything,” That was not the time for me to blindly run into the street and follow my own little games. I became more conscientious of where I was at all times and if it was appropriate to play or not.
As I reached middle school age these sorts of games gradually disappeared and I began to express my creativity in art or music but I never forgot what I was told that day. I even started to apply the concept to other kinds of actions. In high school I started to learn when it was appropriate to kiss my girlfriend and when I should act more professional. In college I still apply the concept to every day situations. When is it appropriate to tell an adult joke and when is it time for me to be serious. When can I loosen up and have a beer and when do I need to focus. The lesson continues on forever.
Lesson 3: “People come and go and if they decide to come back to you, someday they will,”
These were the words that my mom had told me after a long night without sleep back in February of 2010. The previous night I had faced my very first break-up and the pain of it all was just god-awful. My eyes burned and drooped. My anger and confusion raged to the point where I wasn’t even thinking anymore. I asked my mom why it was that my girlfriend had left. Of course she didn’t know the answers but she did know one thing: “People will come and go and if they decide to come back to you, someday they will,” They weren’t the most comforting of words, but they were the most honest.
Of course the pain went away with time and I was able to continue on with my life. I found new loves and experienced new heartbreaks. This single lesson still stuck in my head. Within my second year of college, this lesson became even more apparent. I didn’t see more than half of the friends I saw in my freshman year anymore. Moreover, back home, I hardly talked to any of my old friends from high school. It seemed like those people were completely different than who they used to be. It made me realize that this was a natural cycle of life. People come and people go. It’s not something that can be fought because we can’t control everyone and even if we could, would those people really like for us to control their decisions? Probably not.
Lesson 4: “9 times out of 10 the answer is going to be no”
As a kid I felt like I related more to my mom. She seemed to be warmer and more forgiving. She also had a greater tendency to buy me things if I asked her to do so. Nowadays, I feel like I have a greater connection with my father. He was always pushing me a little harder in the professional arena and we started to have the same sort of tolerances. We didn’t really tolerate actions that were blatantly stupid. We didn’t tolerate dishonesty. We certainly didn’t like to tolerate people ruining our places of Zen. That’s why when I call my parents I usually talk to him for longer periods of time.
When I called him once during freshman or sophomore year, I can’t remember which, it was right after I had received e-mail after e-mail of how I didn’t get a job or an internship. It’s disheartening to see messages of “Thank you but you don’t quite fit our criteria,” That’s when he told me one of the most valuable lessons of my life and one that I will definitely teach my children at an early age: “9 times out of 10 the answer is going to be ‘no’,” He told me that because of this that I should not be disheartened or feel like I failed in any way, shape, or form. That’s just the way that life is.
9 times out of 10 you’re not going to get a girl to feel the same way about you that you feel about her. 9 times out of 10 you’re not necessarily going to get the job. 9 times out of 10 you’re going to be fed the short end of the stick because the world is much bigger than you, but that’s not something that’s bad. It just makes you happier for that 10% of the time that you succeed. When you get the job, or the girl, or the award, or scholarship it’s something you earned and your pride should shine like freshly polished silver.
Needless to say that this is a very long roundabout way of saying thanks to my parents and that we should always be thankful for the lessons they give us. No matter how harsh or how miniscule, without them we wouldn’t be the people we are today. Happy Thanksgiving.
photo by phinworld / flickr