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A Preface

You don’t know what you don’t know

 Anonymous


OK, first off, I’ve got to tell you some things that you REALLY don’t want to hear and are unlikely to believe (or, more importantly, unlikely that you’ll change your behavior over). But it’s crucial that I tell you and really important that you think about these things for you to have a chance to avoid some experiences that you’d otherwise regret later, possibly REALLY regret later.  I get it that it’s really hard for anyone to change their behavior merely as a result of something they’ve been told, no matter how much sense it makes. Unfortunately most people only change through bad experience, and some, not even then.  However, I’m going to try to help you avoid that and I hope you try to do the same.  Having you say later, “You know, he was right,” will be little consolation to me, or you, once some of the best opportunities of your life are no longer available to you as a result of some bad choices that you made. 

If you’re a teenager, you’re changing who you are and what you like or dislike at a fearsome rate. Think about the person you were last year – what music you liked, how you dressed, who and what you thought was cool.  Then compare that with how you feel about those things now. I’ll bet there were some serious changes involving things that you felt really strongly about a year ago. That’s part of being a teenager – almost every like/dislike and emotion is strong and subject to change. The point is that if you changed that much between a year ago and now, what will you be like in a year, or a decade, from now? It'd be a huge mistake to make any major decisions that would negatively impact the rest of your life, while you’re still changing so fast. This is a time for learning about yourself, who you are, who you want to be, what your talents and passions are, as well as about others.  As a teenager, you’re rapidly evolving into “the person you will become.”  Of course even that person will continue to change, but at a much slower rate than during your teenage years.  My general rule of thumb for the age when you’re “old enough” to have a pretty good idea of what's going on in the world is mid-20's for women, and late 20's for men.  Of course this varies with the individual and the real age is when people stop changing so fast and stop being so surprised by the things that happen to them.


This book will do two things:

1.   It will help you to understand that although you know a ton more about the world, yourself, and other people than you did a few short years ago, your understanding is still small compared to what you’ll know in another 5-10 years. That’s why part of the sub-title of this book is, “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know”.

2.   It will give you a lot of information about the dangers and joys of all the things mentioned in the title: love, sex, relationships, drugs, music and many more topics – information that hopefully will help keep you from a life of serious regrets.

 

So I’m asking you to keep an open mind, and think about the information presented in this book – REALLY think about it. There’s a lot of good information that can save you a lot of heartache if you consider it with an open mind and apply it to your life. I get it that the urge to do other than what I recommend here will sometimes be very strong.  But let’s make a deal on that.  I’ll cut you some slack on the stuff that’s a bad idea, but that won’t kill or maim you or take away your important life choices, if you seriously avoid the stuff that will. My goal is to give you enough information, and have you absorb it well enough, so that you’ll have a chance to have a happy life. That’s it – I don’t want anything more than that in return.  It’s very hard for me to watch people make bad decisions that ruin their lives – kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion – no fun at all.

Warnings, maybe even serious stop signs, from older people are really hard for teenagers to accept as their newfound understanding makes them feel that they already know EVERYTHING, plus they seem to have nothing in common with older people. Teenagers may think, “Yeah, I know that you were young once too, but it was different then.” Well some things were different. There were no super high-tech mobile phones, satellite and cable TV, no internet or video games, and some of the drugs, and the music were different too.  But maybe that’s mostly just appearance and not substance. Maybe under that, the hormones were the same, the feeling of knowing more than adults was the same, the urge to be independent and follow their own heart was the same. In fact, I submit that the similarities far outweigh the differences and that the similarities are deep and substantial while the differences are mostly superficial in regard to what’s really important. 

Almost all teenagers, of every generation were like this – knowing everything.  My kids were.  I was.  Most teenagers I know now are.  So if I’m trying to get you to think differently about something that you are so hard-wired to believe, then I’ve got a real uphill battle.  Now having said that, the fact is that although you know a lot already, YOU DON’T REALLY KNOW EVERYTHING and that some of the stuff you don’t know is VERY FREAKIN’ IMPORTANT. That's basically the most important thing that you can learn from this book. 

So hold off on making potentially life-limiting choices – especially any of the BIG SIX: having unprotected sex, becoming a parent, dropping out of school, getting married, doing hard drugs, or driving impaired.  Some people do those things and still have a good life.  But some don’t and even lose a lot of their future options by becoming saddled with debt or children, or killing off a big chunk of their brain or hearing, becoming crippled, or even dying as a result of those decisions.  And just saying, “Oh, I’ll be OK,” (a very typical teenage response) just isn’t good enough.  Yeah, the odds are you’re not gonna die if you do some hard drug or drive drunk one time, but some people do die from doing that just one time, and it could be you.  And sometimes it’s only cosmic bingo (i.e., luck) that saves you and takes someone else instead.

 

   There are so many things about which some old man ought to tell one while one is little; for when one is grown one would know them as a matter of course.”  Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Unfortunately, the above quote just doesn’t work for most kids. Yeah, my kids took everything I told them right to heart – NOT! But sometimes, days, weeks, months, maybe years later, I overheard them giving the same advice to their friends!  Go figure...  All I’m trying to do here is to keep you from making decisions now that will limit or remove your later choices. 

 

   “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”  – Mark Twain

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