The Gen Letter Monsters

“I bought the books, the records, and the politics. I gave all I had I was supposed to give and there were times when I felt like a human being.” -Mike Peters of The Alarm, “Majority

The-Alarm-The-Deceiver-216949That my friends is a kickass song. Few people know it because it was a B-side to a 45 of a now scattered post punk band of the 80’s called The Alarm. They were/are my favorite band. I chose this quote because to me it sums up social science propoganda like naming generations names so well.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Generation XYZ.”

gen-x-yJust like a traveling medicine show, generations come through the great timeline we are all on while we’re alive. Their appearance is different but their impact the same. Generation social science thinks it’s on the cutting edge with real answers but the human condition never changes and being labeled as a generation provides no real comfort or connection.

I want to sit down with more 90 year olds and talk about WWII. I want to have a beer with a Vietnam vet and see what he knows. I just watched “American Sniper” and learned that though the weapons have increased in tech, they still drift drop to the bottom of a bottomless lake when we get shot by them.

Hello? Are listening Gen Y? Gen Z? I’ll bet Gen X is more or less unaffected by Generation letters anymore. I wonder if Y and Z care much. I’d hope we get more open minded as the years progress. I know for almost certain there is no more place for Christianity. Any generation can deconstruct it now as ignorant. Many still use it to their ends but judging those who don’t isn’t Christ-like. Bee part of the human timeline that doesn’t behold itself. If the labels help, fine but seek to feel without the books, the records, and the politics. Only then should you attempt to label yourself or ever dare go to church. The answers lie within and we are the only night lights to keep away the gen letter monsters.

How the Face of Poverty Helped me Grow Up

Poverty is something most young people can’t comprehend until they experience it or even just see it. Seeing it transformed me on a trip I took to Mexico at age 18. I was forced to grow up in an instant (or a series of instants).

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “When Childhood Ends.” Write about a defining moment in your life when you were forced to grow up in an instant (or a series of instants).

This is me graduating with my first degree, AA General Education. That's my Grandpa with me. My experiences at a Tijuana orphanage at 18 influenced my desire to be college educated.
This is me graduating with my first degree, AA General Education. That’s my Grandpa with me. My experiences at a Tijuana orphanage at 18 influenced my desire to be college educated. I’ve gone on to get two more degrees and a teaching credential. Every day I seek to help children of all socioeconomic backgrounds as a teacher.

When I was 18, I went with a group of Southern California kids and adult leaders to give food and supplies to an orphanage in Tijuana. I had the opportunity to give a child a bike. The place was actually situated behind a dump. It was regular practice for the kids there to trash pick for food and other items. The leaders gave me a rebuilt bike to give to a boy who they told me had just discovered his parents stabbed and dead in the dump. It was sobering and sad.

I learned a lot on that trip. As an OC brat, I took a lot for granted growing up. That experience really made me grow up in an instant. I saw that security was not granted for everyone as it was for me. Poverty is real. I think all children growing up in the lap of luxury with Disneyland right in her/his backyard should spend time in poverty. It made me thankful for my parents and my family. It made me realize that I was always just a couple paychecks away from being in poverty myself and that I needed to invest in myself in college and savings to ensure a life far from poverty. I also learned that Tijuana poverty is far below any poverty I had seen in Southern California all my short life.

When in the Valley, Look to the Mountaintop

I would call my second year as a Pizza Hut Manager a valley that I rose to a mountaintop from. I left teaching because I was overwhelmed and the result was a valley I thought I’d never rise above. I control my destiny, I decided where my career would go, twice.

The Daily Post writing prompt: Describe a time when you quickly switched from feeling at the top of the world to sinking all the way down (or vice versa). Did you learn anything about yourself in the process?

Damien Riley Jet Propulsion Lab WrightwoodFrom 2000-2002 I managed the Pizza Hut in Dana Point, California. I had 10 years prior experience there and I was bilingual and highly educated, perhaps beyond necessity. They took me in and made me a manager. The first year was exciting, it was different from teaching and I liked that. The second year was drudgery. I couldn’t make the numbers they set for me and I didn’t have much time off. I felt lower than low. I was living alone and dreading each day walking into the place. I think they could tell as well. After some highly revelatory personal experiences, I knew that teaching was for me so I quite Pizza Hut, started subbing and within months has several interviews. In August of 2002 I was hired as a 5th grade teacher, I was 33.

I think what makes me proud of my valleys is that I looked up at the mountaintop and I didn’t let despair take over. This is an important life skill: When down in the valley, look up at the mountaintop. If you can see it, don’t take your eyes off it as your destiny and you’ll get there. I’ve been a public school teacher now for 16 years. ALL my experiences, especially the valleys make me the great teacher people recognize today.

Definitely Literally and not Figuratively

People have been overusing and hence misusing the word literally for many years now. It’s literally reached a point of no return.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “No, Thank You.” If you could permanently ban a word from general usage, which one would it be? Why?

Literally is a word that signifies the opposite of figuratively. If you use a similie, metaphor, idiom or other form of figurative language, you do not mean what you say. For example: I am starving to death. This is a phrase to emphasize ones hunger, not ones nearness to the undertaker. It would be correct to say “literally” if one had gone weeks without food and the literal distinction could be made.

Literally is a word that should only be used as a colorful distinction when a figurative statement is in fact true. People in our world use the word literally incorrectly and too much. It has become an adverb to signify intense degree. Example: I am literally going over there to complain to the manager. Before the grammar books start bending this usage and making it acceptable, I vote we scrap it altogether, for the good of English communication.

On Being a Listener More Than a Talker

The best advice I ever got from my father and others but didn’t take, through much of my 20’s and 30’s, was to be a listener more than a talker. You give more to people that way than you will ever know. I started to get it in my 30’s and am now still working at it in my mid forties. The challenge marches on.

Damien Riley ListeningAll people in my circle from my family to the strangers I see in the supermarket could use more of a listening ear from me. Can you listen when someone is silent? Yes, it’s called giving someone your attention. This advice is really about being focused on someone and giving them your attention. Listening to someone’s words is just one way to give that attention, it’s not always easy. You can listen to people’s body language, their clothing, their mannerisms, gestures and more. You can even listen to the way people walk by you. For my purposes, the most important way to listen is through listening to other people’s words. This doesn’t come naturally for most people, and I certainly need a lot more patience in this area.

I’m learning more and more that the quotes like: “A closed mouth gathers no foot” and “I would rater remain seated in a group and be thought a fool that stand and speak removing all doubt” are among the most profound. I see every day as a chance to do a listening experiment. At the same time, listening is an act of love because it embraces someone else’s perspective if only for a moment of consideration. It’s not important that you agree with the other person but that you listen and attempt to comprehend what she/he is saying. If I could offer one piece of advice to those seeking a fulfilling life, I’d offer the advice to be a listener more than a talker.

Is there any advice you should have taken through the years from Dad or anyone else?

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This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, prompt #3. It is also a response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take It From┬áMe.”