Tonight, I blew off the reading for my ethics class to watch the last five episodes of Breaking Bad for the first time. It’s 2:00 am, and I shouldn’t have. But I feel good.
It always surprises me how quickly – and often, unexpectedly – my life moves from static to dynamic again. It’s been happening as long as I can remember. I find myself, at least once in every season of my life, slogging through a few weeks in a row, trying to rediscover the vision and regain a grasp on why things matter. I shouldn’t be so fickle at my age, but I’m a strange and crazy dreamer, a perfectionist who loves changes. Old habits die hard.
And then, something (or a collection of somethings) dances back into my line of sight. It’s an email from the director of my collegiate program, or a forgotten picture of my family dredged up from the back of a desk drawer, or just a simple moment in time when a friend serves me just the right smile as I walk past with a beautiful song playing into my headphoned ears. And then I remember all the poetry my life is producing, as if without noticing I had turned the radio volume down to zero and forgotten to bring it back up again. I remember grass on bare toes and canary yellow cardigans on pretty girls in the springtime, cold drinks of water when your head is pounding after an eighteen kilometer run. I remember it all.
I don’t know why I forget, but I praise the world and the God who made it for reminding me when I do. I praise the people in my life who don’t give up on me when I reduce myself to a boring husk of who I’m supposed to be, when I unwittingly sell out the things that matter in order to make a deadline on a paper. My heart is warmed by human kindness – the universal currency of mankind. I feel whole, even when I am alone, for I know that joy is coming and that happiness in this moment is a choice in which I have full efficacy to decide.
I spend most of my time losing myself in big dreams, ones I can only hope to see realized during my time on earth. Meanwhile, my head moves faster than my legs, and I suffer disappointment when I feel that I’m falling behind the people around me who are living out their dreams. And then I wake up and recognize that I’m no ordinary thing. I wake up over and over and over again, pulling just a little more film from my sleepy blue eyes. I know a little bit of everything, a lot about a great deal fewer topics, and everything about virtually nothing – and certainly not about myself. I’m not fully an athlete, nor an academic, nor a businessperson, nor a philosopher, nor a pianist, nor a photographer, nor a film buff, nor a traveler, nor a writer, nor a chef, nor anything else. All of these are a component of who I am, but I will never give myself over to a singular classification. It’s a different road, and often a lonely one, but I love it. I defy description, and it makes the question “What are three interesting facts about yourself?” one of the hardest to answer in all the world.
Tonight, being sentimental and maybe a little mentally clumsy at two in the morning, I began to see on my Facebook news feed a steady stream of people who are finding that moment of wonderful circumstantial euphoria in their lives. They are getting married, having children, releasing debut albums, moving to new cities, starting jobs, graduating from universities, and a whole host of other exciting events. I am doing none of these things – and if I were so quick to remind myself of that fact this particular evening, I would be right back in a position of vague dissatisfaction with the person I am becoming: if for no other reason than simply because my journey doesn’t properly line up with everyone else’s timelines.
I’m tired of trying to compare. The truth is that I’m not the same as them.
I have different dreams than anyone else I know. First, I want to become a management consultant, focusing in corporate strategy and development. That’s not so unordinary, besides its specificity. But afterwards, I have something else that I want – something I’ve wanted since I first thought of the idea after a basketball practice when i was sixteen years old. I want to leave the corporate world behind and move out into the unknown. I don’t want to do it just for me; I won’t hole up in the hollowed-out trunk of a massive old oak on some nondescript mountain in the Catskills (though My Side of the Mountain was essentially my favorite novel as a child, and its idea has always been lodged somewhere deep within my chamber of fanciful thinking). No, I’m going to do something else instead. I want to take what I know about organizational structure to the developing world. I want to set up in a community; I really don’t care where. But there I want to sit with people and help them. I want to become part of their lives, a good part. I want to help the nascent art communities of sub-Saharan African begin to take off. I want to see the women and children entrepreneurs of Northern India beam from behind their shop displays. I want to grow organically into a collective human fibre, and I want to be a real part of something beyond myself, something I truly believe in for the first time.
Maybe that’s what I’m most jealous of, regarding those other people around me. They are able to choose things to believe in so easily.
I don’t have to keep standing outside the window, though, looking in at a world that I’d like to do something about. I’ve come to realize recently that there are two types of persons in this life: those that build the world and those that don’t. The only difference between the two is a vision to create. That’s the type of vision that I desire, and I promise that it doesn’t have to be fancy or flashy in any way, shape, or form – I just want it in my life, in whatever fashion it will come to me. But I also recognize that vision doesn’t rain down upon you like manna from the sky. Vision is developed by action. So here, too, the old adage holds: fortune favors the bold.
So I conclude with the unspoken thought that began this soliloquy, and it is an appeal to you just as much as it is a prayer for me: Don’t ever, ever, stop yourself from moving out into that crazy brilliant future ahead of you. You are a beautiful soul and one that has every right to realize your dreams by mapping them upon the uncharted territory of the world. What’s more, you have seven billion other people to live and work with, people who represent both the greatest challenges and greatest opportunities that this world will ever know.
Now is as good a time as any to get started.