Most Important Lesson I’ve Ever Learned

My favorite book of all time is 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said by Charles Wheelan. I received it as a graduation present from my aunt almost seven months ago now (wow!) and just finished my third time reading it cover to cover. I hadn’t read it since my trip to Cancun in June (see all about my post here) and found new things in it this time that I found inspiring. The one thing that continues to stick with me, and had even more meaning now, is number 6 1/2.

Number 6 1/2 is “Your parents don’t always want what is best for you.”

Before you immediately start disagreeing, think about it for a minute. Your parents have spent your entire life caring for you. They have supported you in all aspects and it is very difficult to let that control go. Imagine your family is a family of birds. When it’s time for the bird to leave the nest, the mother bird just wants to see the baby bird fly on their own and not fall straight to the ground. Your situation is similar to that. Your parents don’t want to see you fail financially, in school, or in general. This is why they urge “safe” jobs/majors/paths, like medicine or law. Most doctors and lawyers are very successful and are able to support themselves, which is all your parents want for you.

But what if you don’t want to be a doctor or lawyer? What if you want to win a Pulitzer Prize, be the next President of the United States, or have your own Food Network show? All of these options have much higher rewards, but the risk is high as well. The chances of failing to be the President are a lot higher than not getting through medical school.

So what does this have to do with anything?

Many of the readers of this blog are young adults (or my extended family), and this is one of the most critical points in our lives. During this time we are going to college, getting our first jobs, and beginning to understand what being an adult means. This is the time to make mistakes. Go out on a Wednesday night, work only when you have to, and live. There will come a time when we all have families, actual jobs, and will be tied down to homes and cars. The ability to take risks lowers with age because of how much is at stake.

We spend our twenties working our way up the corporate ladder; working, working, working. Then we get to our thirties where we get married, have children, buy homes, and continue working to pay for all of these things through our forties. Then the mid-life crisis hits around age 50 and we wonder where our lives have gone. What have we been doing for the past thirty years? Working. Purchasing an excess of goods that society tells us we need. Watching the news channels that filter information and talk about new animals at the local zoo. We haven’t been learning new things every day. We aren’t truly rich, just wealthy.

I have no idea what I want to do with my life yet, but I know that there is no way I’m spending 40 hours a week in a cubicle wasting my twenties away.

This brings me to my final point: live your dreams. Whatever it is you strive to do with your life, go for it! And if you don’t know yet, travel. It is one of the biggest eye openers in the world and every person should be worldly educated.

Your parents will most likely disagree with whatever your dreams are, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for them anyway. You just have to believe in yourself and other people will too. Hey, I believe in you and that makes two! Who will be the third? Keep up the hard work and that number will grow exponentially.

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