The Stories Julian Tells: Don’t Take Your Older Friends for Granted

Written By : Julian Kimble

“I wish I had someone to tell me this when I was your age.”

This statement has followed a glut of guidance bestowed upon me by older friends through the years. As I’ve gotten older myself, I realize that their advice—and, in some cases, simply their presence in my life—has been crucial. Experience is the best teacher, but I definitely believe that hearing the stories of people who have done it all before you is invaluable.

A great anecdotal example can be found in Richard Linklater’s seminal ode to growing up in 1970s Texas, Dazed and Confused. The film follows the parallel story lines of rising high school senior Randall “Pink” Floyd and incoming freshman Mitch Kramer. After Pink and his friends beat Mitch with a paddle as part of a fraternal hazing tradition, he took a liking to the kid. In talking to him, he realized that he reminded him of himself at that age.

 

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As a result, Pink took Mitch under his wing, introducing him to a world of insight and older girls. Along the way, he received guidance in the form of good-spirited ribbing from Pink and company.

 

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Although their knowledge was ripe due to their own youth, it was useful to young Mitch. Those scenes resonated with me because I found myself in a situation similar to Mitch’s at my first job out of college. I wasn’t wide-eyed and eager, but, as a rookie, I still needed counsel. I got it from three older co-workers. Following a few days of hazing (no paddles; they just ignored me), they finally invited me to lunch and proceeded to break down the office dynamics with striking precision. Not only was I floored, I appreciated their honesty. That’s all I wanted: Someone to keep it real with me.

I began absorbing their knowledge instantly because they had already been in my shoes. They had already made the youthful mistakes I was bound to make, and looked to warn me against falling victim to the same blunders. More important, they wanted to do it because nobody had done it for them when they were my age.

Receiving wisdom from people older than you, but not that much older is nearly as priceless as the gems you receive from your parents. Generational gaps can be a communication obstacle, so proximity in age makes the advice more relatable. During an impromptu ratchet night from my first year out of college, we all somehow transitioned from the office to the strip club. I’ve been the financially responsible type since my days of hoarding money to buy Playstation games, but one of my elders gave me some sound advice after my second trip to the ATM. (Strip club ATM fees are no joke.)

“Stop wasting your rent money,” he told me before paying for my drinks. My father could’ve (and definitely would’ve) told me the same thing, but this mandate held a different, immediate weight coming from someone five or six years my senior. That’s what I appreciated more than the invitations to parties with older women, or the coaching on how to succeed with them—it was the willingness to steer me away from missteps they were familiar with.

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As another one of them told me, “We could just hang out with you and take all of you and your friends girls without a second thought, but we wouldn’t do that to you. You’ve earned your stripes.” They actually cared. That’s key to receiving mentoring via friendship: Finding people who are genuinely interested in seeing you do well. Some people will hang out with you, buy you drinks and the whole nine, but don’t want you to shine brighter than them. They want to be Ricky Bobby. You, at best, can be Cal Naughton, Jr. It’s like having a jealous boss who always wants to keep you at least a step beneath them out of insecurity. The quality of an older friend or mentor and their intentions is just as important as having one altogether.

Eventually, the day will come when you’ll look around and realize you aren’t the youngest on the block. It happens to everyone, and, to be frank, it sneaks up on you. At my old job, I remember meeting an intern who was green in the same ways I was just a few years before, but he also carried the same perceptive edge. What’s more, he was searching for someone to show him “The Way,” which is what one of my elders and I did. He confided in us, explaining—just as I did when I was roughly his age—that he just wanted people to be forthright with him.

At that point, it dawned on me: I had experienced life’s cyclical nature. This kid was the new me, and I, the perennial surrogate little brother, had graduated to OG. It was like the series-ending montage on The Wire where you see characters become the new versions of other characters. But above all, I realized that the cycle never stops.

To this day, I’m still friends with the three guys gracious enough to play older brothers to a brash runt just a few months removed from earning his bachelor’s degree. I’m about as old now as they were when they met me, but I still reach out to them to make sure I’m approaching situations from the right angle. Meanwhile, that former intern is about to graduate from college himself, and he knows he can come to me for enlightenment in the same way I go to them. That’s why it’s important to keep older, smarter people around you: The lessons are continuous. Conversely, what good is knowledge if you don’t share it?

Interested in hearing more of Julian’s stories? Follow him on Twitter.

 

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