Can any of you suggest some situations in the world, in another country ideally, that need the help of a strong, courageous, smart, big-hearted young man and where there is at least one adult in charge of things who might command the respect of my son? These would have to be situations that do not expect payment from people coming to help. He would see that as a total scam. Long explanation inside.
This is a very odd question, I know. There's a lot of explanation to follow, but the gist is this - I am thinking of something like Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity to recommend as a volunteer option for my son, but perhaps more physically demanding. My 22 year old son has the ADD hunter-gatherer makeup in many ways and I’d love to find something to recommend to him that would use those strengths. He’s not, in David Brooks’ words from the Op-Ed piece cited below, “collaborative, disciplined, neat, studious, industrious and ambitious.” He needs a place to develop his traditionally male attributes, where he can prove himself on a serious playing field and in a good cause. It would be ideal if it were a place I could go to with him, help out myself in some way, separate from what he’s doing, and then come home, leaving him there. He needs support to get up and out, I think.
Background: My 22 year old son is floundering. He’s lived in the same “progressive” small but hip town all his life. He dropped out of high school in 10th grade, went to community college, left college one class short of his associates' degree. He's living on his own in a 2-bedroom apartment and realizing his savings won't last forever. He’s not having a lot of luck finding a roommate, partly because he’s very messy. As far as I know his primary source of income is dealing grass. He’s also a good poker player. He's stoned too often, drinks too much, and spends a lot of time watching DVDs and playing video games. He doesn't have his driving license and has built it up into a huge deal.
He's a very talented musician and composer – music has very deep meaning for him – but he can't seem to gather the gumption and perhaps organization to really put a band together and play in front of a paying audience, even though he lives in a town where he could. I believe it matters too much to him, and he's afraid to put himself on the line.
He’s a Scorpio for what it’s worth. Very sensitive, huge heart, deep interest in the inner meaning of things, but spending too much time in scorpion mode, focusing on what he doesn’t like about the world and other people, rather than seeking out what he does like. He’s charismatic and shines when he’s able to lead. This great NY Times Op-Ed
by David Brooks describes him to a T.
He is beginning to notice how he builds things up into paralyzing hurdles in his mind. Occasionally he lets on that he’s really unsure how to figure out what to do next in his life, how to move ahead. I wish he’d just get a job for starters, to get himself up and out of the house on a regular basis, start building up some self-esteem, the sense that he’s part of the world and can take care of himself, but that seems to require more decision making and focus than he’s capable of at the moment. He’s also so used to all his time being unstructured that he thinks getting a job would cut in too much to his time to go swimming, hang out with his friends, etc.!
As you might imagine, he doesn't respond well to authority. On the other hand, in the past he did respond very well to grading sorts of situations where he could measure where he stood and whether he'd done a good job. He does very well when he has to come up with his own ideas of how to solve a problem. He's great at just jumping in and trying things, like new musical instruments, cooking, gardening, foraging for edible plants. He doesn't worry too much whether he knows how to do something, he just plays around and notices what works. He's an excellent reader of social situations and people. He veers somewhat toward the paranoid and cautious, but there's always truth in what he sees. He’s also perfectly happy speaking out with an unpopular opinion and trying to persuade people to his way of thinking.
In many ways, I think my son is an anachronism, born in the wrong time and place. If he lived in a world where he had to hunt for his food, protect his family from marauding tribes, or even stand up against true oppression, he'd be the leader. I tell him he's the person I’d want next to me in a post-Apocalyptic world. As it is, he's angry and confused and can't figure out how to live in the world.
So - there are some reasons for his dilemma plain as the nose on his face, such as substance use, too much free time, etc., but they aren't things he's willing to do differently. On thing I think could help him would be an experience that shakes his reality and forces him to rely on his wits and abilities in somewhat challenging circumstances.
He doesn’t believe in organized activities or systems of any kind. For instance, I suggested WOOFing to him because he loves gardening. He said he didn’t need to go learn to garden working for someone else, that if he wants to garden he’ll get his own land (how??). He won’t go to a therapist because he doesn’t think people should get paid for helping other people. I don’t think any structured volunteering setups will work for him because he doesn’t like being just one more person in an already existing situation and doesn’t think he should work for anyone for free – or at least that’s my take on it. On the other hand, I think he’d jump in and help out for free without even thinking about it if he saw a real need staring him in the face. He does very thoughtful things for some of the street people in his town (but would never volunteer at a shelter with the do-gooders).
Thanks a lot for any suggestions. I’m sure I’m going to get some “tough love” advice about leaving him alone to figure it out on his own. That may end up being the only answer. Kicking him out of an apartment I owned that he was living in for free was the first step in that direction and it has helped. I just think there may be some way that I can get him away from the familiar enough to start seeing the world and himself differently.