37 (My Annual Birthday Rant)
I recently spoke at a university to a room full of college students. At one point during the conversation I made a joke in reference to the mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap, and the entire room was a blank. No one had heard of the movie.
Then I thought about it for a moment.
The average age of these students was 21.
I turn 37 today.
I was 16 when they were born.
I was driving when they were released into this world.
The age of 37 isn’t that old when you think about the lifespan of an average person, but at the same time, I feel I have lived so much life that it is unfathomable to think that there is still over half of a life I have left to live. When I was their age, at the tail end of my college career, I clearly remember how terrified I was about graduating and going out to find a job. Up to this point my entire life was about school, and even though I was on the verge of graduating I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
For most of us, the rules at the start of your life are pretty simple. Go to school, get good grades, get a good job, then contribute to society. It’s mapped out pretty plain and simple. Life is a straight line up until you graduate from high school. If you go to college the straight line continues. If you go to grad school or earn a PhD the line continues even further. You’re still trying to reach some goal of “preparation” in life. You’re training to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or an engineer, etc., but you’re not quite walking on your own two feet because you’re still molding yourself into that thing you want to be.
Suddenly, there is a point where the line ends.
You stop preparing and you start doing.
You’re not a REAL doctor until you start treating patients. You’re not a REAL lawyer until you’re practicing law. The only difference between the graduate and the veteran is “experience”.
That was the REAL terrifying thing.
Not knowing what the future holds.
Not knowing if you have what it takes.
You have the “potential”, but you lack the “experience”.
I could sense that same uneasiness in each of the students in that room that day.
Experience is what builds confidence in a person. It’s gives them comfort knowing that they are good at something and that they can be trusted to walk on their own two feet to do the task repeatedly because they’ve walked that same path over and over again until it’s second nature. People become defined by their experience.
I am an author.
I am an illustrator.
I have walked the path many times over.
Strangely though, a recent survey that I read said that only 19% of people in this country like what they do for a living. There are 81% of people in this country who go to a job that don’t make them happy and they do it for years because it becomes a means to an end for them, that being, to pay the bills so they can live their REAL lives.
Somewhere along that straight line in the early part of their lives there was a kink in the path. Within that straight line 81% of you are doing something you hate to do day in and day out.
How did that happen?
Every year on my birthday, I have traditionally posted about how I have viewed how my life has changed year after year. This year, I think I want to give some personal advice which is probably more useful to the younger visitors of my site and maybe to those folks who want more out of their current lives.
BE PASSIONATE ABOUT SOMETHING.
My father used to tell me that if I got a great paying job that money would bring me happiness.
To me, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Dig deep in yourself and think about what it is you love and what you’re PASSIONATE about. Everyone is passionate about something. If you’re happy with what you do then you don’t need to be rich. If you’re happy with what you do then working longer hours doesn’t matter. Invest towards that path in life. Don’t spend the good early portion of your life preparing to be something that you think is safer or more lucrative. This is going to be a commitment that you make for the rest of your life, because once you become an adult, and you start earning experience, you begin to be labelled as that thing you spent the good portion of your life preparing to be. You’re the one who will be trusted to walk that same path every day because you do it without falter, because it has become second nature, and once you are defined as that thing it’s really difficult to turn that boat around.
This is not to say that you can’t change if you are currently unhappy.
You just have to know what you are passionate about.
I almost became a dentist. It wasn’t until I almost graduated from college when I realized that I would regret life not trying to go to art school and I finally turned the boat around. It was the fear of doing something that I knew I was going to hate for the rest of my life because it was safe and secure.
What is that thing you will wake up every day excited to do? What is it that you would do even without being asked to do it? What is that thing you want to do that you have an insatiable desire to learn more about and be better at?
That’s your path.
That’s what you should do.
You may not be rich.
You may not be famous.
But you will be happy.
And that’s all that matters.
To all the younger readers who visit my site who have the potential to succeed and be happy for the rest of their lives I tell you to be passionate about something. Love it, and invest your life in it and don’t be afraid of the path you choose because chances are that the thing you love to do is that thing you were born to do.
It will define you.
Attack it with ferocity.
Be determined to excel at it.
Your passion will turn into experience without you knowing it.
I am 12 years young because life started once I became an artist.
Life begins only once that straight line ends and you walk on your own two feet.