By: Lulu Cohen
A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, there was a universe where girls and boys were lured into experiencing life by sitting idle – with sandwich and chips – in front of the large glowing box in the living room. It’s where we became non-vocal; and we imagined our lives intertwined with the fictional characters we idolized.
We fell brain first into the pliable pit I like to call the sitcom daze. It’s where we encountered real people… well, they were just acting, but at least we knew they were human. After all, we were coming of age in a time when the words “politically correct” didn’t really matter, and where calculated, catchy TV jingles reigned and were forever implanted in our brains.
Recently I’ve been exploring why growing up Gen X had its way with me, and tried to separate the wonderful from the gut-wrenching, untamed wanderlust that was evocative of the time. When I was in high school, I wasn’t a good student because I didn’t try… I just didn’t care. It wasn’t my priority.
My father was awesome and would always bound through the house with fun on his mind. He was an Emmy Award-winning producer for a highly rated national TV show. My childhood home was a constant whirlwind of provocative, famous and smart people. I was a lucky kid and I knew it! This made it easy for a party-centric teenage girl to become distracted. When it came time to do homework, I had other things on my mind and always searched for a shortcut.
One night as I struggled with my English assignment, a great idea hit me like a loud chord being struck on a guitar. I was trying to write a synopsis on Beowulf, sitting at the dining room table with a blank stare on my face, when my dad walked by. I asked if he would help me write this paper, and he replied and said in his nimble fashion, “If I help you, make sure you change my words into your own words.” I quickly said, “Of course, no problem.”
He threw his large six-foot frame down next to me and just started writing. I was shocked… how did he remember the story and understand it well enough to just scribble so fast? That’s when I saw his talent at its best, and realized how much I could learn from him, and what a unique and amazing dad I had. He was done in ten minutes. We went over what he wrote quickly and I said, “I get it now, Thanks!” He said again, “You must change my words into your own words… do not hand in the paper as it is, you understand?” I added, “Yes I’ll do that.”
Ten minutes later, I was finished with my paper. I hadn’t changed a word and didn’t even think of the consequences.
Relieved, I handed it in to my teacher. When he gave it back to me, he frowned and said, “Please come see me after class.” Astonished, I glanced down at my paper and there was a big fat “F” and then the word “PLAGIARISM”. I was shocked. As my heart pounded in confusion about what I would tell the teacher, I made a quick decision. As I meandered to the front of the classroom, my teacher – who was also a minister – said in a soft voice, “Why did you copy your paper from a book?” I gasped and told him the only thing I knew, the truth. “It wasn’t plagiarism; I promise, my father wrote the paper!” I pleaded with him to not tell the principal. He agreed and said he would call my parents directly.
I pondered the idea of my teacher speaking with my father, and decided that it would be cool. When they met, my father explained that he did write the paper. He told him, he was a writer. In fact, he was an Emmy Award-winning producer that had so many trophies in his office that it made me want to be more studious and try harder in school. My dad was easy on me and said, “Wow that was stupid and you didn’t listen. Don’t do that again.” I nodded in embarrassment.
I did learn a lesson from that, but it wasn’t to work harder. I learned to know and assess who you’re dealing with, and tell the truth when you could. It doesn’t sound hard, but sometimes it’s not easy to decipher sticky situations in order to use them to your advantage.
I continued to party my high school years away and live life in the moment. I did realize that I wanted to go on every trip I could with my father and help him. I learned so much from those experiences. I went to college but appreciated my time on the road much more. I learned the nuances of being in the communication field and knew it was for me. Out of bad came good… I definitely feel that way to this day.
Today, most kids plot their course by push buttons; expecting answers quickly. Our TV culture, like the Wonder Woman persona, helped illuminate every teenage Gen X girl’s dreams of power and will.
My Generation X gene will forever be the stamp that explains why we question our motives yet strive hard to complete goals. As adults, when we think back to what molded us, we realize we’re limber in our thoughts and we hope we can stay lucid in our actions. We had no other real alternatives growing up .. it was either TV or homework. Today, everything is computer-generated, with unknown identities hidden between cloned images of non-realism. It’s a toss-up for me as to which is the lesser evil.
I do know one thing: hard work still pays off. The real lesson I learned from my father was: never take life for granted and be passionate about everything you do.
Photo via DollPoupee.com