It is not that we don’t appreciate your experience or interest in our future. However, what you might not realize is that sometimes your advice or questions do more harm than good. These conversations cause us more anxiety than they do a space for open discussion, discovery, and excitement for the multitude of possibilities open to us. Below are a few things to consider when talking to a recent graduate or a young adult:
1. Please Don’t Project Your Fears, Past Traumas, Or Ageism Onto Us
As an older individual, we understand that you lived through more experiences than us and might be eager to let us know what options or dangers are out there. But please understand that we are creating our own experiences in real time. We don’t have the luxury of looking back and shaking our heads at all the silly things we did when we were in our 20's . We are living those “silly" experiences. Telling us that you were “stupid” or “crazy” back when you were our age doesn’t make us feel good. Projecting your past fears/traumas onto us does not serve as a cautionary tale, it’s more of an uncomfortable conversation where we watch you re-live your younger years. Be gentle when discussing the possibilities of the future with us, it is never an easy conversation to have. A safe space to discuss this will help us cope with the unknown. Sometimes we want to share our thoughts and ideas about the future without your past taking center stage.
2. Grad School May Not Be For Everyone Right At This Moment.
This may seem like a no-brainer as education stretches her arms in so many ways to greet us in this day and age. But we all see the faces you make when we mention “taking a break” or “travel” or “work”. We notice the eyebrows furrowing and the inevitable question, “You are going back to school, right?” Or we get, “Well you could take classes now and get a head start!” Please think about what it is like to be in our shoes after four years of devoting our lives to earning a degree then finding out that degree might not reach its full potential without real world experience and more school. Please think about how refreshing it might feel for some of us to grow as professionals or as humans without an institution behind us. Passively insinuating that school is the golden ticket pressures us into this socialized narrative that school is the only option to achieve any real success or fulfillment. Overwhelming those of us who want to go back to school with the many challenges that come with it does not help us "see the light", it actually stunts our growth and excitement. We both know that there are many options out there to achieve our goals and aspirations, we need support in embracing those options.
3. Journeys Are Like Fingerprints
I cannot tell you how many conversations I had with friends distraught because they were not doing what everyone else was doing, be it going straight on to graduate school or taking a few years off. Please support us by encouraging creativity in our path, not trying to make it fit everyone else’s. We too put ourselves in boxes sometimes and need help to see the excitement in adventure. When we hear that we are deviating from the norm, we become anxious when things do not go “as planned”. My mothers literally strapped me down to earth to finish my graduate school applications. I was extremely anxious because of what I heard happened to you if you didn’t go back to school right away. Luckily my parents supported my journey as it was being written and when the time came for me to accept a job in New York, I did not feel like I was deviating from the perfect path; I felt like I was creating my own, which is my perfect path.
4. Please Ask Us If We Want Your Opinion/Advice Before You Offer It
As some do when they see a pregnant woman and regurgitate all they learned during their pregnancy, it is common that older folks do the same when it comes to plans for our lives. We are getting so much input from family, friends, and colleagues that most of the time we don’t know which way to turn or when to trust our own advice. When I was looking for the perfect grad school, everyone who had a mouth had an opinion. When I started to date, everyone had a philosophy and thought it was the right one for me too. For me, it was more helpful to hear, “What do you think is best?” This simple question gave me the agency to present my own ideas, fears, feelings, and philosophies. It gave me the chance to figure out how I truly felt. Sometimes we just want our idea to stand alone in the air without scrutiny so we can see it for ourselves. Once I could claim that space, I was able to give more attention to people’s advice or suggestions (if I asked them for it). If we do not ask you for your advice, we are not looking for it. If you think we are or you are concerned, please give us the safe space to let that conversation start. It will help us so much more.
Although these are helpful hints for older folks, I think it is a great reminder for us young adults as well. When listening to people we trust and hearing their advice or suggestions, we need to remember that is all it is, advice and suggestions, words. It is our choice if we want to take it. It’s our choice. We are allowed to feel lost and confused and it is okay to ask for help. We are not going to always get it right and sometimes there is no "right". Someone once told me that it was not helpful for him to tell the universe what he didn't want to be, it was more helpful that he be prepared for whatever the universe had in store for him. Patience is rarely a willing friend of mine but came up a lot in these few months after graduation. I so want to be at the finish line of my development as a woman of melanin, a poet, an activist, a leader, but that is not where the beauty lies. The silver lining, the diamond dancing on the ocean shore of our stories, the gift is really in between: the journey.
TO THE CALIFORNIA WOMAN WHO SAID:“GUNS ARE JUST TOOLS LIKE SPOONS. WOULD YOU OUTLAW SPOONS SIMPLY BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE USE THEM TO EAT TOO MUCH?”
I am your biggest fan.
You have inspired me by simile.
You have opened my third eye
poured nirvana into my mind
I am enlightened and want to help;
Spread the word of your genius to the heavens.
Utilize your logic to start a movement:
We should outlaw humans.
Guns and spoons are just tools.
Why blame them for the fools responsible?
For all we know, these poor things are just victims
at the hands of the idiots who created a system
not suitable for them.
We’ll start with your family members.
Then head to the gun shops and detain all
those who give out gun permits to
the mentally distressed. Then we can head
to the house of their parents outlaw them for
not taking good enough care of their mentally distressed kids;
Ride down to the hospital and kill all of them
For not providing well enough policies to fit
Needs of those struggling mentally.
We should outlaw humans
We’ll need a plane ticket to DC.
Break into the capitol and retrieve all of congress
for not prioritizing healthcare in all their lobbying.
Eventually get to the president for not delegating
The important work to the right people.
It’s a lot of work but stay with me.
Once we have outlawed the government for
not doing their job, we will come back to California
and attack the inner city. Get all the kids in gangs then
use those same guns to get their parents for not parenting
well enough. Then go to their schools get the teachers
for not caring enough. Then we can ride to the school district
and murder them for not having the funds.
Then we will get to the department of education
because they can’t figure out how to distribute better money
to benefit everybody.
After that, we’ll branch out spread our horizons
to the rich people who don’t want to share their wealth
to help those in a system that didn’t care enough to begin with.
We’ll need addresses for the all the big banks.
Kill the CEO and their assistants who instill
greed in the masses.
We should outlaw humans.
After that we’ll have lunch.
We will have time to delegate the work
to the rest of the world.
We will end with my family:
The fools who cared enough about innocent fools
getting killed by the hand of tools.
We were naïve and stupid.
I know that now.
One question California Lady,
What are you left with?
The tools you want to protect.
Safe and sound out of the hands
of the people you don’t think are
worth the protection.
You will be lonely.
Maybe, you can teach a spoon to
speak and a gun to love. Maybe one day
they will thank you for placing them above everyone else.
Photo taken by Lük Lupe Photography .
Averting eye gazes is like a game
Acknowledging existence and
is a death sentence in this town.
I wanted to be like the man of many relics
Fingers covered in rings and trinkets
Bracelets of all types
Samplings of all religions
Rope around his fingertips to never forget
Where it all begins.
I want to be like Marjorie
From the housekeeping company
Whispering prayers in her sleep
Ancient mantras from ancestors
Freestyling her lullaby
As she is rocked in a steel crib
Like the noble God-child,
3 policemen walk into a subway
it was less of a joke,
and more of a despairing epiphany
that I officially did not feel safer with them around
I felt anger at the Blue Lives Matter bracelet tightly wrapped around his walkie-talkie–
Someone made that, someone had that manufactured
So I would see the symbolism in the denial of a system that devalues me
they talked candidly and leaned back on their professional
patches on the subway doors,
I stopped writing poems,
Spiritually and historically stunted
Until they walked off.
You identify as a Christian. I identify as Christian. We both accepted ourselves as God’s children. According to the Nicene Creed, we believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins. I assume that — like me — you got baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
You and I should be family. Somewhere between your withholding marriage licenses from gay couples and my having two mothers, our ideas of Christianity hit a fault line. The God that I thank for a fulfilling life to do His will cannot be the same God that justifies denying human rights to love. Our Gods took on two different faces within the same doctrine. How do you reconcile with the statement that, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love?” (1 John 4:8). What about the sacred calling to “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31)? How could the same God who preaches the sanctity of love demand that you deny that same option for others?
This goes beyond one couple. You made a choice to tell the world that people like my parents should not share their love with one another—the birthright that God gave to all of us. You reduced me to the little girl who heard this message for years and feared for her two mothers’ immortal souls and who endured bullying from those with a similar mindset to yours. Your message inspires suicide and incites hate crimes, Ms. Davis. You hurt people.
Did you intend to send this message on behalf of God, the God who instructs us to “Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend them without expecting” (Luke 6:35)? You refuse to “loan” your “enemies” a marriage license. You deny them the independence to live their lives that you enjoy.
I cannot believe that we love the same God. May your God grant you the same compassion, understanding, and determination to bring peace to the world and his children that mine does. God bless you, Ms. Davis.
If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates [their] brother, [they are] a liar; for [those] who [do] not love [their kin] whom [they have] seen cannot love God whom [they have] not seen. – 1 John 4:20
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My brother and I walked to my mom’s job one day after school. “Tay, move to the other side of me,” he said sternly. “Why?” I retorted like any 11-year-old would when her older sibling gives a command. “Because,” he began, moving me to the other side, “You can’t be on the side closest to the street. If a car loses control and runs up on the sidewalk, you would get hurt. So you always walk on this side of me. Just in case something happens I get hit first, not you.” My face went blank. What a hero! He would sacrifice his life to save mine. What a great brother!
Instantly, my expectations for boys who claimed to be interested in me changed. I wanted them to treat me like a “lady”: open doors, pull out seats, pay for meals … and walk on the right side of the sidewalk. Before I graduated from high school, my friends and I sang chivalry like the Blues, murdering the idea then resurrecting it again and again. Some would say: “Chivalry is dead.” Others would reply: “Chivalry is alive and well.” None of us knew the status of chivalry, but everyone either longed for it or cherished it.
Something happened in my transition from girl to woman at the women-only college that I attended. Chivalry did not make sense. We learned to deconstruct and challenge gender roles. Chivalry didn’t exist for me anymore. It took on a simpler name: kindness. Whoever got to the door first, opened it. Whoever wanted to pull out a chair for a friend or partner, did it.
Chivalry lost its high-school appeal and started to feel funny on my tongue. I paid for my meal on a first date—shocking my friends. I explained that I didn’t need to see evidence of financial security on a first date. We would remain friends until further notice, so why not pay as friends would? People responded with words like “rude” and “silly.” Why deny myself a free meal—an act of kindness? I promised that I would let the next guy pay for the first meal.
After I graduated and went back into a co-ed world, I understood why the idea of chivalry bothered me. Gentlemen opened doors for me and insisted that I walk ahead of them and get first dibs on almost everything. High school Tayllor would be overjoyed! Grown-up Tayllor was not amused. She was annoyed.
It did not matter if I got to the door first and opened it, the male would make room for me to go before he went because I was the woman. Where can a woman find agency in chivalry? Me waiting on men to open doors, pull out chairs, and make way for me only reminds me of an era of submission. Liberation and chivalry don’t seem to mix. Waiting on a man to open a door does not empower me. A man who leaves that to whoever gets to the door first impresses me. I expect the person who invited someone else out to dinner to pick up the check. I want kindness to be gender neutral … not gender specific. Why hold onto chivalry based on gender roles that reinforce patriarchy?
What do other women think? Is chivalry dead? Alive? In ICU? Or is it just awaiting a modern name?
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Tayllor Johnson currently resides in New York City where she has begun her journey into Poet. Passion. Period. In between those learning moments, she sometimes has just enough time to jot a few lines...
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