His anxiety was building up in his chubby baby face. My son Isaac is 11, but still has that undeniably baby face. I once took him to a place where no children under 13 were allowed. I lied and said he was 13. Mmmm, said the officer at the gate looking at him, you know that look, where the lips come together and swing to the right. “Is HE 13?!” asked the officer now raising his eyebrows. Yup -I replied. They let us in.
Anyway, that day he was worried sick. All of the sudden he shouted, Mom! should I go to college to become a cook or should I create a non-GMO company?! He goes through impulsive bursts of dilemmas, as if Earth would shatter unless he makes a decision right on the spot. We adults don’t make it any easier either with annoying questions like, “what do you want to do when you grow up?” I usually shy away from people who tell me they know EXACTLY what they want our of life and how to accomplish it. That’s like saying I know EXACTLY how to solve a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle with my eyes closed. Yes, eyes must be closed while solving the puzzle because in real life, no one can see what’s around the corner. I’m all grown up and even though I have an idea of what I want, I’m still trying to figure out what I want. Confusing? Maybe. But not to me.
Right when I thought he’ll be done doing 12 years or more of mandatory memorization and secretly hoped that there was still something left of that whatever passion that once captured his tiny soul, there comes the aha! moment, that one when you get pure wisdom straight from the Universe delivered to you on a silver tray. Four more years.
I said, Isaac, I hope you don’t go to college before you’re 25. Or probably ever. That’s not necessary. It is not necessary to have a college degree. To be married by 25. To have a child. To have another child. To buy a house. To buy a car. Now two cars. A dog. A beach house. All these things are not necessary to live a happy and fulfill life. I hope if he decides to pursue any of these paths it’s ONLY because it comes from his heart and not because somehow all this programming was implanted into his brain.
“So, what are your passions; what do you enjoy doing the most?” I asked.
“I don’t know what I want.” He said.
“It’s OK” I said. “I’m 39 and I still don’t know what I want.”
Not knowing what you want is great practice. In order to know what you want you must know the rules too, by knowing rules you now know what’s possible and what is not. You know the boundary. However, clueless people like me are not familiar with those rules. If you’re not aware that something is impossible then it becomes perfectly possible to you. And that’s enough.
How do we discover our passions? The #1 thing to do, even if you find yourself wearing a loincloth in a tropical forest with a mad-giant giraffe chasing you is this: write.
A while ago Isaac told me he would like to be a writer, I said great! Get a notebook, which he titled “Things I Think When I’m Bored.” Write every single sentence or idea that goes through your head, I said. Then try to make those ideas grow, just like a tree grows branches. By the end of the year you will have written a book. We could even have it published on Amazon, I said. We can call it, “Ideas that Went Through a 11 Year Old Boy in 2013”. I bet this could make a terrific book too, nothing like peaking into a fearless 11 year-old brain that is not molded by the word “not possible”. I thought this was neat so I decided to share with a friend of mine who also had a son who wanted to become a writer. I was telling him the whole story when he interrupted me and said, that’s not possible! He can’t be writing random ideas like that. He has to go to college first, THEN he’ll be a writer.
You become a writer by writing. Simple. You don’t need permission to start writing. They are other gazillion things you could do to help you get there like reading lots of books, etc. But there’s no need to subscribe to the thought that children should be made to learn this arbitrary list of things just because a group of people that don’t even know your kid decided he should. Instead I prefer to encourage him to follow his authentic passion and trust that it will take him where ever he wants to go. Am I wrong? Maybe. I seem to be wrong most of the time.
So since Isaac is very visual, we went to the kitchen and put this on paper. We drew stick people. We drew them right as they’re getting out of high school. After all those years we drew a square (on the left) with stuff in it. The square symbolizes taking a break while the stuff in the square is more like figuring out what to do with ourselves. He wrote “Thinking Step”. While we are in this step we try as many things as we want and that’s the stuff he drew inside. Isaac likes reading and eating (cook idea) but he also likes math and traveling. The idea of the drawing is to visualize how by rushing through these important steps we can easily end up with a crappy life. He doesn’t want a crappy life so he wrote “crap” with a sad face. Here is how it looks:
The thing that has challenged my preconceptions the most about what life truly is is traveling. If you’re a teenager with no responsibilities, heck if you’re an adult with no responsibilities other than yourself take off for 5 years or 7. Get lost. There’s many ways to make a living overseas. You can teach English just about anywhere. There’s also a gazillion volunteer opportunities out there in ex-change for accommodation and some food. You learned about the world you live in. You’ll witness your problems become smaller. You may come up with ideas to improve other people’s lives. You may come up with ideas to improve your own life. You may dislike it so much which in return it will clear off some of that mental clutter making it easier to discover your true passion. Do this next.
If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it. -Frank Zappa