This week, I’m joined by my great buddy, world class comedian, amazing juggler and just all-round superfluous person, Ron Pearson.
Ron just had to get something off his chest this week: today’s young people – the Millennials – are so entitled, it’s unbelievable. He recently performed at Arizona State University and noticed that surf and turf – steak and seafood – is served at the dorm cafeteria each week. These kids are dining better than their parents do!
When we were in college, we had to tough it out… we became tough because of our experiences. A balanced meal was Top Ramen and a Coke!
How will these kids survive when they graduate? They’re actually going to step down instead of stepping up into real life after college.
I remember “dining” at the college cafeteria. You’d eat a meal and then physically see it and feel it coming out of your pores over the next several days. Every day was like Russian Roulette with a surprise greasy something sliding on your plate.
But, maybe the problem with today’s young people is us… the “old people”. Ron, for instance, has a son with some special dietary needs to they have to shop for groceries at Home Foods instead of the local chain big box store. As Ron puts it, Whole Foods should be more aptly named “Whole Paycheck”! His son has to eat only gluten free, dairy free, soy free food… but the reality is that none of it is free. It all costs a fortune!!
This is how Ron describes Whole Foods Market: Take your typical grocery store and remove every ounce of food from the shelves, then remove every bit of flavor and goodness from each of those food items and replace everything back onto the shelves. Finally, re-label everything “healthy food” and charge triple for each item. That’s Whole Foods.
Switching gears, Ron dives into the roots of his comedy, which like many other comics, may have its roots in tragedy. Ron had some incredibly abandonment issues as a young person, probably due to his father dying when he was just nine-years-old. As a boy, Ron seemed to know that God’s hand was on his family and would take care of them, but he never really mourned the loss of his dad. Then, as the days, months and years passed, they didn’t talk about his dad much. In fact, once his mother remarried and Ron’s stepfather moved in, they weren’t allowed to talk about his dad at all. And, while his stepdad was a calming force in his family, there still remained a silent undercurrent throughout his home that you never talked about certain things and you never went to anyone with your personal problems.
By the time Ron entered college, he had learned to put walls around himself in order to preserve himself and save himself from heartache. He was nice to others and would freely help people, but he would never allow anyone into his own life for fear of being hurt, lest he start to actually feel like he needed someone.
His shields were up!
The biggest problem is that this pattern went totally in opposition to his innate need for intimacy. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he (like all of us) had a deeply seeded need to be known and loved. But, he had suppressed this for so long, he was completely unaware of it.
Eventually Ron, like almost everyone who goes through this, found himself full of resentment. He had pretty much sabotaged his relationship life by not letting anyone really know him, then he felt angry at the world because no one really knew him.
What he really needed was a group of safe friends who could befriend and love him for who he was – good, bad and ugly.
The tough thing was the level of isolation he had built into his career. As an up-and-coming stand up comedian, there were years when he was on the road over 235 days out of the year. That’s less than three days a week at home. By constantly jumping around, he couldn’t draw close to friends or family, even if he wanted to.
After years and years of taking hard looks in the mirror (and professional therapy), Ron has learned to stop spinning his wheels so fast, let people into his life – his successes as well as his struggles and failures – and be “present” around people.
And it’s contagious. As Ron’s friend, I have learned so much from him and so eagerly look forward to our conversations – even when they get vulnerable!
So, if you find yourself unable to connect with others and feeling the pain that comes along with this, start out by finding some safe people to befriend. Good, Christian counselors are typically good people to help you get the ball rolling. If they are good, they should be able to point you towards people who are already in your life. As Ron has found, small groups at church also tend to help fill this gap as well.
The key is to avoid letting past frustrations and heartache from getting in the way of making new healthy relationships. The bottom line is that the Bible tells us that it’s not good for us to be alone, and Ron and I both have found that it is well worth the risk to have healthy, safe friendships and loved ones in our lives!
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