My Unsolicited Open Letter to the Class of ________
I found out late in life that being a normal worker bee, a cog in the wheel of American society, dragged along by life and what everybody normally does -- school, job, house, cars, possessions, waiting to get old and retire if I didn’t die of some disease or accident first -- maybe wasn’t what I should have done with this one precious life on earth that I was lucky enough to get.
Once a brainy child, I was curious and adventurous. Then I learned: Children should be seen and not heard; still waters run deep; to do what I’m told; to study and make good grades; to graduate; to go to college; pick a major that I would use the rest of my life; graduate and get a good job; get married....blah, blah, blah. In other words, don’t be unique or stick out in a crowd; be normal. I allowed myself to be squelched and to stay that way. I wasn’t necessarily happy with my life, but life was good enough. I was normal and had all the nice trappings that privileged Americans have, never rich but certainly not poor either.
Good enough. GOOD ENOUGH???
Hindsight is 20/20, right? I want you to think forward on your path. What is life going to look like, down to the details, 10, 20, even 30 years from now, if you keep going as you are and life doesn’t throw you a curveball that thwacks you in the head? Will you have a lot of debt and a nice house and fancy cars that keep you a slave to your job? Is it a job you really love and you feel really matters? Do you want to get married? Kids? When exactly? Why?
Why: That’s the big question.
Why do you choose one thing over another? Is it because you’re supposed to, it’s what’s expected, or because it’s what YOU truly want out of life? Maybe you should wait and do something else before “settling down” to normal life. Maybe you don’t really know what you want because you haven’t the experience yet to choose. You love your current sweetie, so you should get married, right? Get your career going? Have some kids? Maybe. Or maybe you should travel the country or the world a bit, meeting others, seeing how other people live before tying yourself down to a life that’s “inescapable.” Do it together, if you’re really in love. It’s only going to strengthen the relationship or point out that you’re really not that compatible in real life and you can remain friends for life.
What’s the rush to do the grown-up thing, starting a career, starting a family? And what’s so great about that anyway? Maybe there’s other ways to think, other ways to act, other paths besides what your parents did and that all your friends seem to be wanting to do. Think how different life is now than it was even 10 years ago, how many more opportunities you have to do something great with your life instead of dedicating it to a corporation that doesn’t care about you, nor you for it, all so you can support your debt load for things that really don’t make you happy. Band-aids on the sores of what could have been.
If you want to have a so-called normal life, at least stop to think beforehand. Don’t buy a shiny new car that’s going to be just a car, your ride to work, in several weeks or months. That payment could go to DOing something really fun and building experiences and living an EXTRAordinary life. Don’t have accidental kids. Deliberately plan them. Once the deed is done, it’s done for good. No do-overs, at least not without dire consequences. Think ahead so you don’t have regrets and if-onlies. Choose life; don’t let circumstances or other people choose for you, because they certainly will. And they want you to do exactly what they’re doing, because they don’t have the gumption to do anything different. Don’t be them -- be YOU. Have a plan and the gumption to stick it out. Or to deliberately choose to change it. Plan to be able to change your plan if you want to. Don’t let normal life trap you, because it will.
Talk to older people about the path they chose and how that went. What regrets do they have? Might you find yourself trapped with the same regrets? Not if you learn to dream and think and then plan for it. What issues do you care about? Will you be able to volunteer time to the cause if you want to? Or will you be trapped in a job you hate because you really need the money to support your normal life? If you get downsized out of your job, will you be fine or thrown into panic and depression because life as you know it will be in a shambles at your feet? Or will you be able to take it as an opportunity to do something you feel matters or to take time off to regroup and recharge and rethink?
Think. Think things through without emotional trappings to sway you. Ooooh, shiny, pretty will tarnish before you get it paid off. Memories and lessons are what you take with you into your future, not your stuff. Too much stuff will trap you because it’s too much trouble or too expensive to move or store, and so you sit, stagnant, wishing.
A planner lives like no one else now so they can live like no one else later. Think about that one. Read it again. Understand?
Read a lot. Listen. Observe. Think. Then act. Action is the most important. And act deliberately or circumstances and other people will choose the path for you and steal your one precious life from you.
“let them call you crazy
Because what they call crazy…
…is what they’re afraid to do themselves.
And I am certain
That in this one precious life
…not the cowards…
win.” — Ash Ambirge, themiddlefingerproject.com
Download and read The Flinch:
“It’s so important they refuse to charge for it.” It’s free. This young man is very smart -- and you'll be smarter where it counts if you read this.
Go forth and refuse to flinch!