What would you do if money were no object? How would you really like to spend your life? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? I awoke the other morning to a video link that someone had sent me that really got my head spinning. The video is a speech by Alan Watts, and is remarkably beautiful and intended to spark a lot of thought from its audience, which it did immediately.
My first reaction was “where was this guy when i was getting out of high school?” Why didn’t i run into someone who told me to simply ignore society and the drive for money and to chase happiness instead.
Others’ reactions to the video shocked me. Some were similar to mine, moved and inspired and touched. Others negative. I can understand a single mother who comments that she cant see a route to a happier career because she has to put food on the table… feeling “unstuck” is a difficult idea in that scenario. But the parent who is afraid for her kids to see the video- her comments conjure up all kinds of emotions in me. Shouldn’t we want more than anything to hope our children find themselves in that happy place and do anything to try and help them get there? She infers that it’s okay to dream, but at some point you have to be realistic and just settle for a job to make money and survive. Have we really come this far, to a place where people can’t even watch an inspirational video directed at teenagers without being so terrified of breaking the mold that it’s perceived as poison to their minds?
When i graduated from high school i was in a small town where most people either took over their family’s farm, or went to work at the local mill. Moving out of town wasn’t really an option as leaving was considered abandoning the family and friends around you. I know because they told me when i left seeking other choices.
My first dream in life was to be an oceanographer and spend my days diving and underwater. During a visit my senior year to the nearest university with an oceanography program the dean informed me “you don’t want this job. you’ll spend months at sea away from your family and your wife and kids will leave you and you’ll die broke and alone”. I (a young and very impressionable kid) changed my career path before we even got home. Within the year i took a trip to another university, where i thought my artwork might lead to a career path. The dean of this college’s response was “you don’t want this job. artists only make money after they’re dead, so you’ll just lose your wife and kids and die broke and alone”. I again changed my career path and decided to be an architect, because architects in theory made great money from being creative. Only years and mountainous loans later did i discover that most architects gets paid less than teachers (and don’t even get me started on the travesty of what we pay educators in our society). If only i had the wisdom to have known that these two voices i took as fact were nothing more than jaded opinions…
Looking back i regret being foolish enough to listen to those bitter men (both who clearly had relationship issues and who i caught on the worst possible day), but i also wonder who was handling the recruiting at those universities… these guys really sucked at their job. I somehow still found the strength to leave my hometown after college and look for other paths, but the path i was running down wasn’t my dream at all, it was someone else’s. I ran as fast and worked as hard as i could toward a goal of money. More money for more things so that i could work harder for more of it.
Years later when Jen and I started traveling is when i began realizing there are actually other options. We would meet someone who decided to travel after college (actually promoted in other cultures) and had no idea what they were going to do with their life. They may have been broke and lost, but they were happy. Divemasters who barely made enough money to pay rent in the lean-to they lived in, but spent their days underwater and their nights on the beach…not a bad existence. Surf instructors and artists who struggled to get by but lived where they wanted and were seeking a lifestyle choice rather than the best paying job. Where were these career paths when i was looking? Where was the traveling uncle that stopped in for a layover and said “go see the world. figure out what you really want out of life. see what makes you happy and then chase it to the ends of the earth”. Where is that guy for my niece and her generation?
I’m not against hard work. I’m not against corporate careers or desk jobs, and i don’t believe that Alan Watts or the makers of this video were either…as long as you actually enjoy what you do. I could list the people Ive known who enjoyed their jobs on one hand, with possible fingers to spare. It’s easy to critique from the other side, because i currently don’t have a job…but we’re also currently burning our savings while looking for an answer. For a way to do what we love. To surround ourselves by people who love and appreciate the same thing, and to eventually find a way to make money from it. To survive by doing the things that we are passionate about and that build us up. This is the sweet spot we are looking for, we just need the universe to give us a cleat sign… seriously universe, anytime. Were waiting.