I am amazed by the number of people I know who didn't follow their passions in life; they followed the money. Athletes who could have been championship coaches, but settled for going into the family business. Brilliant writers and photographers who decided to be lawyers.
One young man of my acquaintance
still has time -- he's in his twenties -- but he has already given up
what he enjoyed -- art and his love of the outdoors-- to pursue a
stupid, dead end job at one of the bureaucratic agencies in Washington,
DC where his girlfriend lives.
This is the kind of behavior typical of women from my generation --
throwing away what they loved to do for someone they loved. Later, they
can feel a strange, unexplainable unrest in their forties
that makes them end their marriages and go off to "find themselves."
Since he left high school, I've
tried to encourage my artistic, outdoorsy friend to get a degree in
computer graphics. The only question he asked me, "Can I make a lot of
money doing that?" Wrong question. He should have asked, "Will it be something I'll love?"
Someone else I know wanted to be a
professional golfer. He's working for one of the big consulting firms,
and hating every moment. His plan is to make a lot of money so he can
retire at forty.
I told him to follow his passion
and the money will follow. He'd rather make a lot of money now so that
when he's forty he can retire and then play golf. I warned him that he
may suddenly discover that he's forty years old but can't retire. And
hates what he's doing. Just like now.
Every time I hear a college kid complain that they don't know what they
want to do with their lives, I tell them to remember what they loved to
do as children. Who did they pretend they were when they played? What
lessons did they take that they loved? What shows did they watch? What
occupied their spare time?
On the other hand the kids who had to endure their parents' divorce or
a death or some other trauma may have to delay their childhoods until
after high school or college. I think in many respects the lack
of motivation among young people in their twenties may be because they didn't
get to be children. They didn't have a chance to "play
pretend." To use their imaginations. To think about what they
would want to do with their lives, instead of putting their lives on hold, while trying to
hold their fragile psyches together in the midst of family chaos.
Their dreams were stomped on and they need time to pursue them again.
So I've encouraged people like that to try things, find out what they
like. Go someplace that makes them happy. Be a kid again. But
most parents just nag nag nag -- when are you going to get a job?
They had a job -- they were children once, and something or someone took that precious time away.
Childhood aside, women, more than men, for some reason, seem to have permission to reinvent themselves every
ten years or so. We interrupt our careers for children. We have one
career while we're going to school to start another one. Being true to
ourselves was a freedom we earned the hard way in the sixties and don't
want to give up.
On the other hand, any number of women stressed to the max with kids
and career are starting to worry -- like men -- about losing that BIG paycheck
their family counts on.
On the other hand, it seems like men need to have permission to change their careers
instead of slogging away at something they hate. Unfortunately,
too often there are wives who won't let them. She didn't marry a person.
She married a paycheck, especially if he's bringing in the big dough.
What usually happens is that the guys wait twenty years while doing
what they hate, finally dumping their families in emotional frustration so they can change directions.
Maybe they won't have to anymore, now that women can make six and seven figures,
too. But she shouldn't be stuck either. They can support each other in
doing what they each like. He can weave baskets and she can make
potholders. As long as they're happy. HEY!!! It shouldn't always
be about the money.
Just contemplating my navel here. I'd like to change directions again
myself. This would be my fourth incarnation. Maybe there's a lemonade
stand in my future.