Putting Off Until Tomorrow

The county fair came to town last week, and we always use that event for our families to get together and hang out for an evening.

Between corn dogs, birch beer and fair fries, my nephew mentioned being only a semester away from graduating college. He’s a good student, a hard worker -- commutes to the local city college -- lives at home.

“Yeah – I’m going to take a semester off, though,” he said, “and work some extra hours to pay off my car.”

All I could think was, “But you are only a semester away from being done! Just wrap it up and move on …”

My sister is fine with it. He is helpful around the house and does not disrupt her life in any way. His part-time job is a good one (he sells athletic shoes) and he makes a decent buck.

So, just like that, he’s cruising easy through the New Year holiday. He’ll get back to school and wrap it up in 2012. Without even mentioning it or seeming to notice it, he has put off the big responsibilities for another six months, maybe longer.

I know a lot of kids live this way these days. I mean, that is the prevalent attitude: no hurry, no worry, take your time. And further, in many ways he might be right to do this.

I recall thinking for many years after I graduated (at 21) that I should have slowed down and done college on that five- or six-year plan that everyone else was starting to apply. I mean what was the big hurry?

And in that answer, I think I may have stumbled across the real “CHANGE” that the politicians were chirping about before the last election. The change has been the way that youth approaches life now.

See, it used to be that guys finished school and they found work or their dads got them into their factories or mail rooms at the bottom of the ladder. Those that were worth their salt rose up by working hard and showing diligence.

Some went off to the war, and when they got back home they married, made a family and worked at anything they could to make ends meet.

It was like: “Are you depressed by the war, my son?”

“No time to be, Dad. Got to get me a job.”

Men were made of Teflon.

But how do you tell a kid that’s been living in the basement, has guaranteed benefits through your employment until he is 27, enjoys free access to a stocked refrigerator, cable television and a family auto insurance plan, that he ought to hurry out there and go his own way?

You don’t.

So friends, maybe we ought to stop insisting that the waning economy is only due to the way the politicians have juxtaposed the world. We have established such a nice soft landing for our children that we must bear some of the blame.

We have interrupted the challenge of life that once used to be more up to us than to our parents -- the school bully, the dress code and the dreaded unkind substitute teacher; Mommy fixes all of that now.

We fill their dormitories with personal refrigerators, cell phones, flat screen televisions and high definition computers. We buy them cars, holidays with their respective boy/girl friends, and send them bountiful “survival” packages from home.

Who the heck would volunteer to leave the warm, embryonic sack of “student” to become the freezing cold, stark-naked babe that is about to be slapped into reality with the moniker of “productive, tax-paying citizen?”

So out they go at 25, equipped with their four-year degree and little else, to meet the real world. The first time the roar comes before them and the challenges become real, they conclude what?

“I ought to go back and get my master’s degree.”

Am I right or not? You tell me. Have our kids grown so soft that they will never truly be able to reboot this society and economy because they are so non-confrontational and unchallenged that it isn’t even a matter of pride any more to find a great job, work hard and provide for a family?

Have we dismantled the American Dream by making it less of a goal and more of an unearned right?

I’d like to know what you think.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.