One day, when I was 14, I waltzed into my family's living room and proudly announced to my mother and father that I wanted to attend college with my older sister. Better yet, I wanted to graduate with a college degree before high school. My sister and I had finally stopped bickering over the remote control, and she had stopped kicking me out of her room when she blasted Ja Rule over the radio (this alone was a personal victory). My mom didn't take much notice, and my dad was preoccupied with a bowl of arroz or something. Mind you, I had no idea how to even initiate the process for dual-enrollment courses, nor was I a self-proclaimed guru on navigating the higher education system. Heck, I came from a family of farmers. My family’s expertise lay in applying fertilizer not applying for college. At the time, I'm sure they didn't think much of what I said.
But for the remainder of my high school career, this purpose and my family’s encouragement influenced all of my life's decisions: What I studied in school, who I connected with, and how I spent my summers and vacations. I stayed “hungry” as Steve Jobs once noted.
And now, five years after high school, I managed to finish my college degree prior to high school and will graduate with my master's degree this summer. In the next few years, I plan to pursue a doctoral degree.
Don't get me wrong. I maintained a social life, was involved in a romantic relationship at one point, and enjoyed just about all the highs and lows the onset of my teenage years brought.
Despite my initial initiative, I’m far from having a definite proclamation as to how my life will play out. Most of us draw blanks when it comes to identifying how we want to lead our lives. Even after we finish school. Even after we get a job. Even after we’re making money. Between ages 15 and 21, I changed career aspirations more often than I changed my underwear. And even after I had completed my undergraduate coursework, it wasn’t until I had some meaningful conversations with past and present mentors that I clearly defined what I wanted for my life in the meantime. It’s understood that even what is planned, should be flexible to a change in circumstances as well.
It’s called a quarter life crisis for a reason. Then again, these types of things aren’t limited to people that are only a quarter of a century old. “What’s next?” “What gives my life meaning?” “What do I not suck at?” I often get asked how I have it all figured out. Yet, that is VERY far from the truth.
I suppose part of the problem is the concept of “life purpose” itself. The notion that we were each born for some transcendental purpose and it’s now our duty (heh, duty) to find it. This is the same kind of crummy logic used to justify things like spirit animals or that someone’s lucky number is 69 (but only on Wednesdays or during leap years).
Here is the reality of things. We co-exist on this earth for some unspecified amount of time. During that time we do stuff. Some of this stuff is important. Some of them are unimportant. And that important stuff gives our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically help pass the time. This isn’t to discredit the fact that we each have some form of a higher being or god that we may or may not call on to guide us, but I use the term loosely on the chance that not everyone adheres to a similar religion (trying to put my multicultural counseling skills to use here).
So when people say, “What should I do next?” or “What is my calling?” what they’re actually thinking is: “What is worth my time?”
This is a better question to ask. It’s easier to dissect and doesn’t weigh so heavy on the heart. There’s no reason for people to be contemplating their life’s worth while sitting on their couch all day eating Doritos (No offense to Doritos. They really are great with bean dip). Rather, people should be getting off their butt and discovering what feels important to them.
Now what could possibly be my rationale for rambling about all of this? Bear with me on this. I have a point. I promise.
Everything deserved comes with some form of sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is blissful 24/7. So the question becomes: What is an individual willing to do to make their dreams a reality? Essentially, the hunger and amount of ambition towards realizing our goals to fruition (in most circumstances) is our ability to ruthlessly pursue it amidst the good AND the bad.
If an individual wants to rap and make soul beats just like that (thanks Kanye), but they can’t handle failure, then they’re not going to make it far. If someone wants to be a professional writer, but they aren’t willing to see their work rejected far more than it’s accepted, then they’re done before they have begun. If someone wants to be a big-time entrepreneur, but can’t stand the grind of grueling hours, then I’ve got bad news for those individuals.
Mind you, regardless of what endeavor a person decides to pursue, they’re going to initially suck at it. Very rarely will an individual be a pro at things their first time around (thanks for that false sense of hope Chuck Norris). With that in mind, there will be many embarrassing moments that follow improving one’s craft. It goes along with being vulnerable.
I feel the need to rant about yet another thing because I feel as if this is a common occurrence in not just my life but also the lives of others around me. There’s a fear of embarrassment, of failure, of not doing something at the “right” time…who is to dictate what is and is not “appropriate”?
It may come off as spiteful, but I have no shame in admitting that nothing is more upsetting to hear than learning of someone that has limited either themselves or others before they’ve even had a chance to attempt it.
We become so fixated in preventing others from failing because we feel as if we’re doing them a favor, but I think there is much to be learned from the not so glamorous parts on becoming the person an individual genuinely feels they were meant to be. I have no shame in saying I’ve failed a number of things. I failed my drivers ed test (I promise I’ve gotten better…kinda). I failed a few fitness exams in middle school; however, that’s mainly because push-ups are the devil. I’ve failed at a few romantic endeavors. Right now? I’ve failed a pretty important exam in the counseling program. Did it suck? Most definitely. Were there some bruises sustained to my ego along the way? You bet. Yet, right now I rest easy in knowing I’m going to do everything in my power to overcome these challenges and setbacks. The struggle is real as my middle school students used to say. I have my reasons for leading the life I lead, but I make it a point to have my reasons based off of my personal preferences and not the preferences of others.
The things that are worthwhile, by default, go against the grain and may be perceived as quirky and unorthodox. As a result, to accomplish these dreams, a person has to be every bit of willing to cease being yet another sheep in the herd. And to follow through on this is daunting.
I close with this. Discovering what one is “called” to do comes down to finding those things that allow time to stand still and still find something that transcends this current lifetime. Essentially, to find that something to continue working towards that can be imagined in a world where that person no longer exists.