Advice For My Teenage Brother: Summer Just Arrived, Focus on the Seconds
Advice For My Teenage Brother is a column where I give advice to my teenage brother 17 years my junior unbound by any parental obligations to shape his mind or financially account for his mistakes, I can flex my brotherly instinct and tell him things I feel his parents, sports heroes, and television won’t. You know how you would do things differently if you knew what you know now? It’s like that, but for someone else. Maybe your teen needs advice too.
Little Brother, you sent me a legitimately amazing piece of media that was very different than the stream of “Black Twitter” comedy you normally share. It was a 2-minute short film titled Seconds, by Marko Slavnic, and not only did it make me stop and pay attention, but gave me a better view through the window of your experience.
The narrator states the number of seconds in a day and pontificates, “each one contains countless options, possibilities, and decisions of which only one can emerge,” just before finding himself next to an unassuming young woman at a local bodega… The overall concept explored in the film is simple. A decision made in a single second will greatly affect every subsequent second. The director chose romantic love to convey this message due to its primal nature; however, this notion of everything lost and gain in a single second is the primal quark to love’s atom.
The overall concept explored in the film is simple. A decision made in a single second could greatly affect your life’s entire subsequent second of your experience. Slavnic chose romantic love to convey this message due to its primal nature; however, this notion of everything lost and gain in a single second is the primal quark to love’s atom.
Options, possibilities, decisions… there’s nothing quite like being 16 when everything that happens to you feels iconic. Now that sophomore year is finally over, you’ve got the summer… no… THE Summer ahead of you. And now more than ever, you must become aware of how those seconds will define you.
What We Become
The first thing we have to understand when looking at how time affects us is the simple and universal notion that what we do is what we become.
Just as accurate existentially and realistically, time is every man’s master. It is the one force we cannot beat or outsmart. Time goes everywhere we go, and we all run out of it eventually. All we can do is use what time we have as well as we can pray it was enough when our clock inevitably runs out. This isn’t to scare you into action or try and convince you into being needlessly “productive (whatever that means)” I simply hope to frame time as the great equalizer amongst humanity. We all have the same 24 hours every day. More than that, we all have the same current moment every moment – the same second, and whatever we repeat in those moments will become more and more of what we are.
While this is obvious for physical challenges, this is just as true for growing mentally, conceptually, and spiritually. Who you are right now is a culmination of what you’ve done before. The practice, the workouts, the reading, the videos, the television, the music, the conversations, the friendships, the effort, and missed opportunities. Those seconds all shape you and continue to shape you, but you always have the power to change based on what you do, how much and how often. Just keep in mind that how much you like who you are in this moment, is a typically a result of all the things you did not do with your seconds.
In The Summer, fun is your focus. You are young and hungry for debauchery, and while it can sometimes be awesome, It pays to stay open minded to the infinite number of other fantastic things you enjoy. The fun in your summer can be about more than going to parties and trying to score. I understand how good that sort of thing can feel when it most of the control of your life is in the hands numerous others. It’s “your” life, but you mostly watch from the rails while parents, teachers, police, friends, and older brothers seem to want to make all your decisions for you. It makes doing hood rat shit with your friends all the more pleasing. Still, you’re a multifaceted person with a variety of interests outside of all the things school and television tell you to like. In my experience, the relationships and adventures centered around your passions are the real things you remember along with the things you created yourself or loved unexpectedly.
If you’re low on ideas, here’s a few:
Get outside. Play basketball. Go hiking. Accept invites to lake houses. Water parks. Play inside. Do yoga with Mom. Go see live music. Make live music. Learn how to DJ. Take hilarious photos and caption them. Fix something with the old man. Twerk. Create and film your own wrestling entrances. Start an arm wrestling tournament. Powerlift. Freestyle battle. Have an out of body experience. Go camping. Act in a play. Learn how to transcend reality. Write a comic. Design some clothes. Volunteer.
Each option, possibility, and decision could lead to something amazing though that largely depends on how optimistic you are in your decision-making. Pessimism has no place in greatness of The Summer.
The Summer is a great time to make money. Now that you’re finally 16, you can get finally join the workforce as a low paid employee! If you are going to work for someone else (you don’t actually have to) there are a few things to consider. Our corporate overlords have made a killing off hiring young, spirited youths and grinding them up in thankless work for low pay. To most teens, nine bucks an hour is a ton of money, and most don’t care enough to rock the boat. Since there is always some new 16-year-old looking for 8 bucks an hour, they can just make you clean poop and answer stupid questions until your brain turns off. If you finally do decide to just not be there, you can be replaced in a matter of hours. Their whole system is designed to be broken up into idiot-proof portions that don’t challenge so much as annoy. The good news is that, school has been preparing you for life as a cog in a machine the entire time, so you shouldn’t have any problems once you get work, but in corporate jobs, you are hired because you’re expendable. Never forget that.
Now rather than the one size fits all nature of ‘My First Corporate Job’ you do have the option of seeking out work you may be more interested in or that will offer you a better personal benefit than free food that will kill you or a discount on items you don’t need. If you know yourself and leverage yours and your parents’ relationships, you do have other options in which to invest your seconds.
The Small Business
Instead of dealing with the homogeneity and lack of trust of The Walmarts and McDonalds, there are several other smaller companies and organizations that would love a strapping young person to do work for them. The work can be esoteric, varied, and teach you things about an industry you have never considered. Plus, if they’re smaller, they’ll often give you more responsibility and respect you enough to teach you things outside of your specific function. If you’re interested, check out doctors offices, equestrian centers, training camps, driving ranges, animal clinics, restaurants (specifically independent ones). Learning how to work in a restaurant can sustain you in a variety of ways, and you can do the work virtually anywhere. If you ever get stranded in Mexico, it’s good to know you can make some cash as a waiter or cabana boy. Cougars love hunting cabana boys.
Since you already have free room and board from your generous parents, the notion of working for free to gain valuable experience is a sensible prospect. Colleges will be impressed at your initiative, as will future employers if you continue on in that particular industry. While you may not make your own money, you will have respect enough from parents and relatives to stick them up for things you want because they think your work matters. Simply find something you’re interested in or passionate about, locate the organizations that are involved, then send them an email saying you’d like to work and learn and are willing to do so for free. Everybody loves workers they don’t have to pay. America was practically built on it.
The REAL Work
The seconds you spend working for other people and having fun can be important… Or not. Only you know what’s important to you. That is the real work; the time you spend developing your skills and investing in yourself. The seconds you spend learning the guitar could be how you confidently played the music used to express your love the woman you eventually marry. The seconds you spend reading books about sports business could give you the desire to get an MBA so that you can fairly represent athletes as a sports agent. The seconds you spend improving your basketball game could get you on the road to being good enough to get a scholarship to a smaller HBCU where you begin to appreciate learning and devote your professional life to scholarship and activism.
It’s Your Second
If what we do is what we become, look at your life over the last 24 hours; who are you? Rather than of thinking about who you could be 10 years from now, why not focus solely on who you will be tomorrow then let the rest of the seconds take care of themselves? This is your Summer. The fun. The work. The friends. The memories. The entirety of your future collapsed into a single solitary second where you can always choose the outcome. Will you be fearless in the face of social differences? Will you be courageous in the face of danger? Will you be open to possibility and respect your own passion and insight? It’s your second. What will do with it?