Imagine a day 20 years from now when your parents are grocery shopping. They happen to run into a friend. Small talk ensues, compliments follow, and then the conversation turns to you. Think deeply about this moment and you’ll notice the lie inherent in the encouragement you will receive your entire life.
If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s coming: xxxxxxxxx, you can be whoever you want to be, do whatever you want to do. What a wonderful notion. It’s simple and totally empowering. But is it true? This act of uncovering truth is the task of a lifetime. You will be constantly bombarded by information, usually from well-intentioned people, and it will be up to you to determine what is valuable (aka true) and what is not. The better you are at this task, the better you will be navigating both yourself and the world.
Back to the grocery store. Then go back further. Think about your parents’ parents in a similar situation. When it came time to talk about kids, your grandparents spoke of a daughter going to xxxxxxxxx or a son thriving in athletics or a daughter winning a prestigious job or a son moving to the great New York City or a daughter being popular or a son crushing standardized tests. It’s smiles all around.
But that’s only half the story. For while your parents did indeed excel in traditional success metrics (TSM), they also didn’t – there were unconventional paths and choices too. Unconventional, that is, when compared to TSM. And now, perhaps, you are beginning to comprehend the lie, right?
If you really can do whatever you want to do with full support from all those same people who echoed the sentiment, TSM is irrelevant. But you and I both know that the grocery store friend isn’t smiling the same smile if the other half of the story is told. And that’s most unfortunate because it means do whatever you want to do is truly do whatever you want to do so long as I approve. Perhaps even worse, how you do anything is rendered largely insignificant; if you unethically hit TSM, praise will follow in a way it never will in earning an honest $15/hr.
It’s all a bit tricky made less tricky for you in particular because of your parents. They both know, and will surely demonstrate, the code to unlocking this puzzle: grow confident and courageous to do what you want to do for no other reason than I want to do it. This attitude will sometimes put you at odds with the outside world, will leave you open to judgement and even scorn. But that price, a serious price no doubt, is worth paying in the quest to become the glorious xxxxxxxxx, however you define glorious.
You get to do that if you want to. Or not. I’m just a well-intentioned person bombarding you with information, and you must determine what is valuable. Or not.
There is, however, no questioning this: if you ever need some outside input regarding any of life’s challenges, give me a call.