Jordan and I interview my dad

1970, in Pamplona, Spain -- Around the time my dad realized he was an adult.

Sometimes journeying very far away can help you realize that good advice was right by your side all along. At least that’s true in my case — during college I’ve called my parents up more than a few times to ask them what they would do in my situation. Yesterday Jordan and I were hankering to know what my dad, now a professor of psychology, thought about life when he was 21. So we called him up and had this conversation.

Jordan: When you were 21 how did you feel about the future generally? Were you excited to be a grown up?

Dad: I was kind of living in the moment, you know. I had already hitchhiked from New York to California and from New York to Florida and back, and I sort of had a taste for adventure. I was excited about leaving New York and just continuing the journey of discovering the world.

Arielle: So you used to write poetry and climb mountains and go on adventures … How did you know when you had become an adult?

Dad: Um, it wasn’t like a qualitative shift. It was more sort of gradual, but the balance seemed to shift around 27. I seemed to be able to reflect more about the potential consequences of my actions, which also coincided with – around 27 I climbed the volcano Cotopaxi, and I guess I had a realization that I could really die in some of the things that I was doing. I gave up my fantasy of immortality; I realized that I was not invulnerable.

Jordan: I know you’re from New York. Do you think that New York is the best place for a young person to be, or do you think there are other opportunities outside of this city?

Dad: I don’t think it’s the best place or the worst place. It’s glorious on one hand and it’s a hell hole on the other. A lot of what you run into in New York is circumstantial, don’t you think? It’s spectacular but it’s also nasty, it’s fraught with a lot of difficulties and it’s a little bit unpredictable.

Jordan: I also want to ask you about Arielle. We’re both confused about the next step after graduation, and I know that Arielle is a journalist and a writer at heart. Do you feel that way as well and what would make you think she is destined for writing or journalism?

Dad: Words don’t seem to be a struggle for her. They seem to come nicely and quickly and efficiently and she gets the job done so I’m really impressed with that. And also I know how literary she is and how much time she’s put into reading … all the external indicators of success are there. [Ed. Note: OK so my dad said a lot of other really nice things about me at this point, but he’s my dad and he loves me, so we won’t bother you with all the details.]

Arielle: Have you read our blog?

Dad: Yeah, I haven’t read the whole thing, but I’m kind of in marvel of it and looking forward to reading more. I actually don’t really know what the idea of the blog is; could you help me to get more of a focus on it?

Jordan: Uh, we’re kind of trying to figure it out ourselves I think.

Dad: So … it’s kind of an exploration of the world according to Jordan and Arielle?

Jordan: That’s about right I think.

Arielle: Um.

Arielle: Back to you Dad — I think there’s a sense that our generation is more pampered but less prepared for economic realities than your generation was. What do you think of that?

Orchard Beach -- 1956

Dad: I don’t know. I wasn’t prepared for it all. In a way I had a silver spoon because I went to City College, and it was 14 dollars a semester. I used to go to my mom and say, “Ma I need money,” and she would go into her purse and take out 14 dollars and that was the semester’s registration fee. And then I got a scholarship to graduate school; I never paid a nickel for my tuition and I had enough money for housing.

Jordan: Is there any particular skill that we don’t learn from our professors that you really should know when you embark on a life after college?

Dad: I think leveraging mortgages* and investing money is something that you should probably learn as quickly as you can. I learned it so much later in life. I grew up in New York and I couldn’t imagine anyone having a hundred thousand dollars to buy a house. To me it was like, you’re never going to have that amount of money so you better pay the rent, like you guys are doing. What about your parents — Are they homeowners, Jordan?

Jordan: Yeah.

Dad: Where are they living?

Jordan: They live in New York, about an hour north of the city.

Dad: Did they pass on any of that to you — about how to leverage mortgages and handle finances?

Jordan: No, I don’t really think they know how to do it either. I honestly don’t know how they function day to day but somehow they must do it.

Dad: It’s a lot of trial and error on my end, and somehow I’ve made it work. But if you guys could just take a course in it that might be really helpful.

Arielle : I think there probably is a course, but I would just be totally uninterested in it. What is your general advice for us for the future?

Dad: My own experience has been that I didn’t have to think so far ahead. That you follow your passion and it leads you to the right place. Always have some sort of safety net so you can have some food on the table, but other than that I say just follow the direction of your interests and don’t worry about money too much.

*After this interview Jordan and I realized we’re not really even sure what leveraging mortgages means. I’m not sure my dad does either.

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