Two Ways to Do Something

By Joe Rector

I’m not sure when it started, but at some point in my life, I began giving advice to folks. Some might say that I stuck my nose where it didn’t belong, but that never silenced me. All sorts of people have been subjected to the Joe Rector version of what is right. They’ve discovered that two ways exist: my way and the wrong way. Poor humans never saw it coming and couldn’t escape it.

For 30 years, I taught high school, and students received tons of advice from me. These days, such activities would lead to my firing. However, back in the day, when I closed the door to my classroom, I was in charge. Now, I never gave any advice that was illegal or immoral, but I offered my opinion on some occasions. Fridays used to be discussion days. Students circled up in their desks, and we began. I told these teens that we would not discuss religion, politics, or war. Some classes ignored that rule, and I had to drag them back to an acceptable topic. Most of the time, I played “devil’s advocate.” I asked questions or made teens give proof to back up their contentions. I told those students they’d never know what I really thought, but chances are they had an inkling of my beliefs.

In 1974, Amy and I married. I swept her off her feet, and she landed in Knoxville. I thought since she was only 19 that I, as a man of 22, could make decisions for us. I was older and much wiser, or so I thought. Amy was the real mature person in our relationship. Oh, I tried to tell her what she should do and shared my opinion on a variety of topics. Sometimes my wife humored me and let me think that I was in charge; at other times, she gave me the look, that one that screams, “You moron, be quiet!” Most of the time, however, my dear wife simply ignored me. I’m so lucky that she has put up with my tendency to think I’m right most of the time.

My children, Lacey and Dallas, have been swept away in the flood of their father’s opinions. I had something to say about any topic. Folks who know Lacey should ask her my ideas about the fall of the Egyptian civilization. Others might ask Dallas about the advice I gave him for years on baseball. To understand how off the charts I’ve been, people might ask them what kind of expectations I had for them as children of a teacher. I learned many of these from my mother, who was a teacher. It’s been a rough life at times for my children.

Age is such a shocking teacher. I still try to give advice to others. My intentions are good; I don’t want individuals to suffer through some of the things that I have. The shocker for me is that I’m too old to give advice. No one wants to hear what I think. Even worse, I don’t understand so much of this world and the new things in it. Like too many oldsters, my opinions on topics of life today sound incredibly like whining and complaining. We Boomers are each day becoming more like square pegs that don’t fit into round holes.

I try now to ease up on telling people what they should do, but too often, I fall back into the trap and begin lecturing them on what is the correct way to go about things. Some of it comes from being a teacher. A person who is the head of the class is supposed to be in charge. Yes, a part of education is self-discovery, but sometimes, the only way to drive home a concept is by verbalizing it and having students write the words down, and then test them. No one should worry that this will never end. All of us have an expiration date, and when they arrive, the bossiness disappears. Just be patient with us until then.