Some Hard-Core Adolescence Advice

Here’s a great thing about living with a teenager: after making (and consuming) wontons, you linger at the table and discover your daughter is searching for a penguin.

A penguin?

Apparently, a mate for life, although the last I’d read some penguins are seasonally monogamous. Apparently, that’s a technical point.

I offered advice, which, as my daughter pointed out, might actually be useful, as I’ve messed up my penguin quest.

I rattled off the general look-for list – respectful, responsible, disciplined, generally decent and humorous – and finally said, Think about what he fills his life with, and what you fill yours with. Does he pursue money? Sports? Video games? Career? Will what he pursues bear out, decades later?

We ate the second batch of wontons. I mentioned what drove her father and I apart, in the end, was what we each love most. We kept talking, around and around, about little bits. She offered me the last wonton.

Here’s a few lines from an incredible essay my father emailed me. If you read nothing else this September, read this.

In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

– David Foster Wallace

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By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

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