Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What are important but uncomfortable truths that many people learn when transitioning into adults? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
1. Your parents will get more and more out of touch. They will still want you to do what they want you to do. It’s okay; you don’t have to do it. You are not beholden. You will eventually get to a point where you do, actually, know better than your parents – and there is nothing wrong with that. It happens.
2. Not only does the world not revolve around you, it never did.
3. There will be people who will see your discomfort or pain…
… and not care.
… and think you deserve it.
… and be amused or titillated by it.
4. People do not owe you their help.
5. You are under no obligation to remain in a relationship with someone who has harmed you, even if they are a parent or a partner, and even if they are dependent upon you. You have the right to your boundaries.
6. If you keep having disagreements with multiple people about the same things, there’s only one common factor: you. As a friend of mine said once a long time ago: If one person tells you that you are a jackass, you may safely ignore it. If six or eight people who are reasonably sound thinkers express the opinion that you are a jackass, go get fitted for a saddle.
7. Just because you are an adult with your own business and your own suffering does not mean you have a right to ignore the suffering of others. Adulthood does not come with the right to be self-centered. Leave that in adolescence, where it belongs.
8. How you treat those who cannot possibly benefit you demonstrates your character. The way you treat the homeless or the waitstaff is far more indicative of the person you really are than the way you treat your boss.
9. If you’re put in a position to choose between a promotion and a friendship, choose the friendship.
10. If you want the world to be a better place, the work starts with you. You have to do it too.
11. Sometimes if you help someone, they will help you in return, but not always. Sometimes they’re not capable of it. Sometimes they won’t realize it. Sometimes they can’t accept that they needed help so they ignore it. Your help has to come with no strings attached, or it’s not help – it’s just blackmail.
12. People will disagree with you. People will dislike you. But people will also like you and agree with you. Be sure to have a lot of contact with the group that likes you, and a moderate amount with the group that doesn’t, to keep your perspective accurate.
13. Many people your age have not learned these life lessons yet. That doesn’t release you from your obligations to behave like an adult. They may never learn these lessons, but you have.
14. Sometimes you can help someone learn one or more of these lessons. Sometimes that may end the friendship. People don’t like these lessons. They involve the truth, and change, and pain. Don’t force it, but be aware – you may be the lever that moves their world someday, just by understanding these lessons and acting on them. Sometimes, it is your job to be the doctor, no matter what Alanis Morrisette said.
15. Do not attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity or ignorance.
16. Sometimes you will be someone’s teachable moment, whether you like it or not. Handle it as gracefully as you can.
You may be the first X someone has ever met (where X is “person of color,” “autistic,” “Jew,” “gay person,” “rock star,” etc.), and they will want answers to questions that may seem stupid, pointless or even offensive to you. However, at that moment, you are their teachable moment. You have the opportunity to make a difference by educating them about something where they lack knowledge that you already have.
17. Trust is a context-dependent thing, not an absolute.
I might trust you to hold my house keys for me while I go on vacation, but not trust you alone with my kids, because I know you get angry with kids and I don’t want my kids put in danger. I might trust you to show up on time for the party, but not to remember to bring what I asked you to bring, because I know you’re good at being on time but not good at remembering what you’re asked to do beyond that.
18. Try to remember to have compassion. It’s hard sometimes, but it helps, and too many people forget.
19. You cannot solve other people’s problems for them. The most you can do is to point them in the right direction, hand them tools to help, and hand them the medicine they need. You cannot, however, make them use those tools or take that medicine. Know the boundaries of your responsibility to others.
20. Unless another person’s values are actively, directly harming you, you have no business demanding that they give them up and substitute yours. Let it go and move on. Both of you will be better for it.
This means, essentially, “pick your battles.” Certainly, if a person’s beliefs are harming others, go to it. But if they’re not actually harming you (but only making you uncomfortable), and if nobody else is actually being harmed, then let it go.