<< The following content is an essay in our “Student Perspectives” series. The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of CARP or any employee thereof. >>
Walk in My Shoes
I am assuming that the bulk of young adults have yet to become undeniably certain of their life purpose so please, for a moment, allow yourself to step into another’s shoes. Picture a 17-year-old insomniac sitting alone at the foot of his bed, his face squished in his hands, and contemplating death.
‘Death,’ not suicide, mind you. Death as in the guy with the scythe, the end of the road, beyond the veil. The sensation of never waking up again or being conscious to chug down a root beer float, kiss a girl, or feel the breeze against your skin; what would it be like? Most religious or spiritual people approach this topic with their belief of a spirit world, thus dodging a most valuable question to ask. It allows you to put things into perspective and dig to the deep down thick of it of later asking,
“What do I desire to do in this life?”
In case you haven’t already guessed, the 17-year-old insomniac was me. By then I’d already taken interest into a variety of activities. When I was 7 I wanted to fly into space. At 10 I was dead set on becoming an Olympic sprinter. Come my 13th year my aspirations switched to studying at Julliard to play violin, and let me tell you, I was serious about becoming a professional. Throughout that and the following year I put in six hours of sliding up and down the scales till my fingers blistered and my backbone ached. Thousands of dollars were invested from my parents into private lessons; I even acquired an antique violin. It was my passion. It filled my pride. My love for the craft was truly sincere, which is likely why it felt gut- wrenching to quit.
Why did I opt out?
It wasn’t because of the uncertain income, nor was it due to pressure. I simply grew tired of that lifestyle; of repeating the same sounds and gestures again and again and again till my senses blurred and my wrists cramped. What began as a hobby had turned into a job, and the payoff wasn’t worth it. It was through quitting that I learned a life lesson:
“If what you’re doing leaves you unfulfilled and worn out, leave it behind. Otherwise you’ll be poisoning yourself and become toxic to others.”
What Came Next
By then I’d already taken an interest into writing. I’d never done it seriously outside of school, and I was indifferent to reading, but for some odd reason I wanted to draft a book; likely because I was a foolish high school student desiring to appear relevant. Anyhow, I wrote and I continued to write. School lost priority. Sleep became an option. I began to treasure literature and invested into books. Hemingway, Austen, Dickinson, I ate them all up and was hungry for more. Yet it wasn’t until later that I admitted to the fact that I was in love. Infatuated, I dedicated my soul to the craft of prose before saying the following words out loud, “I am a writer,” and that was that.
The Age-Old Question
Many young adults are asking the age old question, “What should I do with my life?” And my answer is that I don’t know. I don’t know what you want and neither does anyone else because we’re not you and we’ll never be you. It would be simple if someone could answer it but they can’t, and those who state otherwise are liars. Suggestions can be made, mentors and may provide influence, but a solid answer is uncovered only through deep thought followed by action. I may be unable to offer answers, but I’ve got a few suggestions. They’re based off my own experience and I hope you may take that into consideration.
What sort of pain are you willing to plow through?
This question matters because in any field you go in to, there are going to be times where you feel as though you’re swimming through goat manure. It’ll stink, your thoughts won’t flow, and you’ll desperately want out. When writing, this happens all too often; it’s called writers block. Now, I’m not certain, but I believe there is an artist’s block, or an editor’s block, or perhaps even a coder’s block. If you aspire to enter a specific field, you’ve got to make sure you’re willing to plow through the slush. If you aren’t, you will drown.
What will you do for others?
Writing is solitary work. I talk primarily to the little people inside my head, which sounds mad if you aren’t a writer. Even so, we have to think about our audience. We aren’t writing stories for ourselves (or at least, not if we intend to earn any money), we’re writing for the reader whom we have almost a reciprocal relationship with. For that reason, I’m often thinking about other people and what experiences they’ll have when leafing through my work. How can I make them ball their eyes out? Will this joke cause a chuckle? Is this description too nauseating? Writing gives me the ability to help others in a variety of ways, and doing so brings me fulfillment which propels me to keep going. What will you do for others? Ask, answer, and then get to work.
Will your ten-year-old self smile at you?
It took a while to remember, but when I was an itty bitty kid, I used to make up stories. They were your typical cliché ridden plots, and if I read them out loud now, it would taste like I’d just slurped down a quart of horse vomit. Still, they were stories. I wrote them because it was fun. If my 6-year-old self were to have seen the video-game-obsessed-me from only a few years back, he would either cry, laugh me off the stage, or puke. Luckily, I’m back on track, but what about you? What old hobbies or habits did you have as a kid? Have they incessantly been calling you back for the last couple of years? If so, pick up the phone and have a talk. You could learn a thing or two.
Tell your doubters to shove off.
In many cases, when you tell someone that you’re really going to follow your dreams, they’ll be doubtful. In one scene I was at church and had just mentioned to one of my friends that I was going to be a writer. He told me that it was impractical because there was no money in the job. In another scene I was telling someone that I wasn’t going to college. They said that I just had to go to college. I told them I’d go wherever the heck I wanted. If you love doing something and would like to make a career out of it, go for it. Take risks, but don’t be irresponsible. You’ll never know where you’ll end up when following the unworn path.
Money IS an object.
When younger, I loved the question, “What if money were no object?” Fortunately, I also asked, “What if I was homeless?” It would be wonderful if income didn’t matter, but it does, and we have to deal with it. I wanted to be a writer, a profession underscored to having an income that equates to poverty. Fast forward one year and it turns out that you can actually earn a decent bit of money, it just takes wit, skill, and tenacity. When deciding your life’s direction you’ve got to consider how you’ll be able to pay the rent, support yourself (and maybe a family), and still have funds to splurge for fun.
Choosing for Yourself
Life isn’t easy. Sometimes you’ll get hit, other times you’ll do the hitting. The world is full of idiots trying to figure out how to be happy and, to no surprise, I’m one of them. Just remember that when it comes to purpose, it isn’t decided by some outside figure. It’s your choice, and wherever it leads you, you’ll have to live with it. It’s up to you to usurp the trails in life and soar to cloud 9. So go write your book. Paint that masterpiece. Save the world. Just make sure there are pictures or else it didn’t happen.