Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Formative Social Training... or Misspent Youth?..

My 'Old Mate' Abu Fares decided to 'tag' me.. (Well, he implicitly claims that he did it because he was required to, as one of the conditions of a tag he had received himself.. I actually believe he drew much joy from putting me on the spot!... but that's another story altogether..) The 'tag' sounded simple enough, but the old cynic in me knew that these things are always more complex than they first seem...


All I had to do was to list 'Six Things One Should Do Before 18'... but there are some rules for this game:

1. Post these rules before presenting your list.

2. List 6 actions or achievements you think every person should accomplish before turning 18.

3. There are no conditions on what can be included on the list.

4. At the end of your blog, choose 6, or less, people to get tagged and list their names.

5. People who are tagged write their own blog entry with their 6 suggestions.

6. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged.


The first problem, of course, was that, now that I am on the wrong side of 50, being 18 is a vague and distant memory for me.. not to mention that being 18 then was totally different from being 18 now..


The next problem was that my 'Old Mate' Abu Fares used all the good answers, and now I have to come up with something really original.. Mind you, there is nothing in the rules above that says you cannot reuse items from someone else's list...


Another problem is.. How do I list certain things, without confirming that I myself have done them?.. How do I get away from incriminating myself?.. So, for that purpose, let me make it absolutely clear from the outset, that what I write here is entirely theoretical, and not at all based on personal experiences.. and that any similarities between what I write and real life (MY real life, that is..) are purely coincidental.. OK?.. (Does that sound convincing enough?.. No?..)


So, with all that in mind, I hereby list my choice of 'Six Things One Should Do Before 18' ...

First, I believe that every person, man or woman, should fall in love before they reach the age of maturity (if you can call being 18 'mature'..).. be it with your teacher, your best mate's sister, or with the girl next door.. That exquisite feeling of being totally besotted.. totally consumed.. can only be understood if experienced.. Perhaps I should rephrase that opening statement.. perhaps I should say that everyone must experience the feeling of believing they are in love... because, more often than not, we soon 'discover' that the person we have 'fallen in love with' hasn't even noticed that we ever existed.. and what a blow that is to a young, tender heart.. You might feel that your life is about to end right there and then.. you might be unable to envisage a future without your lost love.. you might vow not to fall in love ever again.. but sure enough, you move on and you do fall in love again, but this time it will be for real, and it will be returned, and what's more, it will be absolute heaven... then, and perhaps only then, you can look back at your first experience of love, and smile...

Second, I think everyone should experience having a 'soul mate' before they reach 18.. Friendships forged in childhood are pure and selfless.. they are devoid of any ulterior motives.. and when you grow up, these childhood friendships can become the cornerstone of your being, and the rock of your stability.. Although my adolescence soul mate lives in Damascus (having been to the US for several years and gone back home), we are in constant contact, and we, I believe, contribute to each other's sanity and resilience..

Third, everybody should go through a phase of rebellion before they get to that landmark of their life.. Everyone must become a rebel for a while before they get to 18.. The passion and fervour that come with being a rebel will live with you forever, even after the rebellion itself subsides.. If you manage to ignite a flame of enthusiasm for a cause, any cause, in your youth, you are more likely to be able to find the energy and the stubbornness that you will invariably need when you have to face up to those demons that you will come across in your life-long battles...

Fourth, everybody must have a 'serious' hobby before we reach 18.. In fact, I think you must go through several hobbies during your formative years.. Once again, it is the passion and commitment that you develop when you are so serious about an activity, whatever it is, that I value so much.. Whether that hobby is a sporting one, an artistic one, or an utterly eccentric one, it matters not.. It is the passion.. the commitment.. the belief that you have a skill or a knowledge that no-one else possesses... Most of us outgrow our 'silly' hobbies, but the values that we amassed from practising those hobbies will stay with us forever.. I had a number of hobbies that have evolved and changed over the years.. I am not quite sure what I learnt from collecting drink bottle tops, but from stamp collecting as a child, I learned the value of history, the passion for the classic, and a deep sense of belonging.. from swimming and sports as a youth, I learned the importance of hard work and perseverance.. from photography, the value of observation, and the beauty of viewing matters from an unusual and different perspective.. and from reading, I learned, and continue to learn, most of what I know today...

Fifth, every self-respecting 18-year-old must be able to boast having broken a bone at some point in his or her earlier years... (OK, a bad sprain would be an acceptable alternative!..) Encountering pain is a very humbling experience, albeit a very unpleasant one!.. As youths, we might think we are invulnerable and indestructible.. Experiencing what will hopefully be a temporary incapacity will help us recognize our vulnerabilities and limitations, and allow us to empathize with those who are unfortunate enough to have permanent disabilities or long-lasting pain.. When I was 13, I broke a bone in my foot while playing football (I kicked the goalpost instead of the football!..).. It took me a couple of days to pluck up the courage to tell my dad, and several further days to convince him (a surgeon of some 20 years' experience at the time!..) that there was something wrong, and that I was not simply a whingeing wimp!.. I felt vindicated when the x-ray showed a fracture, but the smug smile was wiped off my face when I realized that I have to have a plaster cast for four weeks, during which I cannot wear proper shoes, or proper trousers.. I needed help with bathing, and could only walk, very slowly, with a stick!.. The experience certainly taught me a lot about myself, and made me look at the disabled with a sense of respect and admiration for their ability to face up to their misfortunes..

Finally, I think that, by the age of 18, everyone must have an idea (vague as it may be) about their general direction in life.. By that time in your life, you must have formed a general plan of where you are going.. otherwise, you are at risk of wandering aimlessly through life.. and a decade or two later, you suddenly realize that you are still wandering aimlessly through life!.. I am not suggesting that you should have made life-long commitments by that age.. far from it.. What I am saying is that you must have an aim by that stage.. a purpose.. a target.. You may (and most probably, you will) soon change it, and set your sight elsewhere, but if you do not have some sort of a plan at that point in your life, you (and probably those around you) are in for a bumpy ride!...

So, there you go, Abu Fares.. I do hope that my answers satisfy the conditions of the tag.. More importantly, I do hope that you would allow me special dispensation, and waive the requirement of tagging six other unsuspecting victims.. I have but few friends on the blogosphere, and I do not want to scare them away!..

Addendum: Is it too late to change my mind about tagging someone?.. I would like to tag Lujayn and Syrian in London...

9 comments:

Abu Kareem said...

Wallah ya SB, I come across as a stuck up old disciplinarian compared to your "go ahead, experiment, fall in love, break a leg" attitude. Your kids must have loved that list if this is what they had to abide by as they were growing up. I bet things a little tighter than the list would suggest. If Daddy was a pushover when it came to rules and regulations, I bet Mrs. SB was the disciplinarian in the house. Am I right?

abufares said...

When I chose Abu Kareem and You, I knew exactly what I was doing.
I had to answer a difficult tag myself and the only reward I could think of is to read what both of you have to say. In a way, it's a narcissistic wish as I knew that both of you would be intentionally or not supportive of my way of thinking.
That was a great post SB. Like a shot in the buttock, my tag didn't hurt that much but it did lots of good to your readership.

The Syrian Brit said...

Abu Kareem,
I am the first to admit, to the deep dismay my long-suffering wife , that the kids, collectively and individually, have me wrapped around their little finger!.. Nevetheless, I am sure you can see through the seemingly soft veneer of my words.. I am not so much of a pushover, but more of a believer in learning through experiences..

The Syrian Brit said...

Abu Fares,
I am glad that you think your tag was a pain in the backside!.. I do hope that it will give me some immunity from more tags for at least two years!..

Syrian in London said...

Well Well Well! my first Tag! the funny thing is I read Abu fares' blog and I was mentally thinking of things to do before you're 18 and my first happened to be "fall in love"! Now that you've tagged me to prepare a similar list after AF and you it will be a real challenge

Thanks for the "kind" thought in tagging me :-)

The Syrian Brit said...

Well, my dear SiL, I am delighted, honoured and privileged to be the first one to tag you.. I look forward with great anticipation to your post...

Syrian in London said...

Finally I managed to sit to my pc and finish this blog! I would say enjoy but I'm not too sure!

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