James Dean is Italian—big time. There are roads and mansions in Firenze that are named after him. And like any good Italian, James gets together with his family for meatballs and marinara, seafood salad and eggplant Parmesan, homemade Ciabatta and imported extra virgin olive oil, every week.
During one of these gatherings, I spent a fair amount of time chatting with J.D.’s Dad—a hardworking, self-made millionaire, of athletic stature and with a promising head full of salt n’ pepper hair. We were discussing the change of moral culture from his generation to mine. Specifically, how my generation “lacked principles.” Nobody follows through on his or her promises anymore, he said. If it’s not convenient for a kid of your generation to achieve what they said they were going to do, they just quit, unabashedly.
Unprincipled? I asked. Or differently principled? Because I don’t see it that way, Sir. We are committed… to authenticity. To not waking up one morning wondering how it was we are now 60 and we never fulfilled our dreams? We are committed to smiling every day. To knowing ourselves. And to being true to that person, at all costs. We are committed to authenticity. That trumps obligations or socially imposed responsibilities. (Are you with me, reader?)
For some of us, ahem… those raised in Iowa maybe, shoving animal shit and bailing hay… or maybe those of us who were raised by the son of an Army Colonel… having follow-through is not an option. It is as ingrained in me as the temperature of my inners. But authenticity competes, from time-to-time. Because I agree with the common discourse of my generation that there is great value in being true to thyself. That happiness is self-made and indeed, our own responsibility.
At the end of the day, I disagree, future father-in-law. We are a principled generation. We are committed. We do take responsibility. But of us, to us, and for us.