I can’t really support it when people try to settle for anything less than their deepest desires and greatest accomplishments. It feels as if we are living in a time where most feel pressured to settle for less in every possible way. Yes, the global economy has taken some heavy blows and sure, the world doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon, but I try to look at things a little bit more optimistically. Even in the face of harsh realities, I am still the type of person to keep on dreaming.
For a good chunk of my middle school and high school years, I had a horrible habit of complaining about every single problem or flaw that I could find. I often wasted time worrying about things that would end up not even mattering. I had weak faith and weaker dreams. I looked forward to nothing. That was the darkest time in my life. I was actively sucking the light out of everything that I touched… It was the only way I could find comfort in a world that had me feeling trapped and confused.
One of my favorite songs, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” by The Smashing Pumpkins, does a fantastic job of explaining how I felt back then:
It took me all the way until AFTER high school to develop a more positive attitude. I’m definitely still working on it, but if you knew me a few years ago, you’d know just how much progress I’ve made. I’m so much better at believing that anything is possible. That was something I lost while “growing up”… a victim in the war against myself and the struggles I had with those around me. Something I really admire about most young people is their capacity to believe in anything. At this age, you’ve never really been disappointed, save for the terrible situation where mommy or daddy wouldn’t buy you that toy you wanted and you started making a scene in the store, knocking over every box of that toy in the process. A day or two passed and you realized that the toy wasn’t such a big deal. You kept on playing and dreaming and believing until that terrible day that you were told to “GROW UP.” Generally, growing up means shedding that amazing knack for believing in all the possibilities. To do this, you must often commit yourself to ONE SINGLE FUTURE CAREER. I believe that those who are truly successful RE-LEARN that skill or find a way to hold onto it. Here’s someone I really admire for their creativity:
I know that personally, every time I’d heard the words “grow up” it has left me with a feeling reminiscent of how the Native Americans must have felt when settlers decided to visit with guns in hand and told them to become “civilized” or die. While I don’t believe that I’d DIE if I “grew up”, I do believe that I would stop dreaming… I’d stop pushing myself to do more and BE more.
Back in elementary school, I remember being asked by a teacher “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and that the first two things that came to mind were “I don’t know” and “I don’t want to grow up”. I was perfectly content playing tag and Sonic the Hedgehog for the rest of my life if I could. I had no interest in money and knew absolutely nothing about its importance except for the fact that it bought me candy and ice cream when I gave it to the guy at 7-11. Seriously though, what kind of question is that to ask a kid anyway? Are we really expecting 7 year-old children to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives? At that age, we know absolutely NOTHING about college, having an internship, or anything else that leads us toward entering into a career. Just let the kids play hopscotch! One thing I’d like to say here before moving on is that I feel it is absolutely INSANE that some elementary schools have decided to remove recess. Kids NEED to play with each other. That’s how they start to develop their social skills! If you’re gonna take away something from schools, please take away whoever comes up with stupid ideas like taking away recess.
Anyway, I’ve always questioned the life path that public education would have me on… This path of the LEGENDARY Thomas Wilkes, the man who decided to listen to his teachers and do everything that society expected of him, just like everyone else: grow up, get a job, graduate from high school, go to college, meet a girl, graduate college, get an office job, work my ass off for promotions, get married, blah, blah, blah… It just always seemed boring. If I had to do something for the rest of my life, I wanted it to be something that I loved. I just didn’t know what that was at the time. Eventually, I learned that it was THIS, expressing myself in any possible way, whether it was art, music, writing, poetry, public speech… I have a passion for communication! I’d like to hope that you can tell I plan to live only for that passion!
Growing up, I asked a lot of adults where they worked. Some of them worked with computers or technology, some with things I had never even heard of. I received various responses to that question, and each of them helped open my eyes to the fact there were so many possibilities. This was before my depression kicked in and before my negative attitude kicked in… At this point, I was still capable of believing in anything. As I got older, I started to realize that many people were working jobs that they didn’t like… It took me until I got a job of my own to realize why someone would want to do that.
As I made my way through high school, I started to become hypnotized, like all my peers, by the allure of money. The problem for me at the time was that I DIDN’T have any. I was receiving pressure from all sources imaginable to start making money. My mom was telling me that college would be expensive, my school was providing awesome trips to countries I had always wanted to go to but couldn’t afford, I wanted to buy things that I didn’t have, and I had a girlfriend that I foolishly thought would be happier if I had more money. When I turned 17, I started looking for a job, although not with all the effort that I probably should have been. I just really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was pretty shy and actually terrified of working as a cashier of any sort. My friends all had jobs and cars of their own at this point. Sure, many of them were working some job that they hated, but they had something to show for it. Money just seemed so important to me all of a sudden. It was astonishing how profoundly my lack of some silly green paper affected me. I was driven straight to madness over it.
After a couple years of self-loathing and misery brought about by my money issues (apparently I had some crazy astrological transit going on affecting me in that regard from 17 to 19), I ended up getting my first job during the September AFTER graduation. It was 2010, I was 19 years old at the time, and I can easily say that I would have never even THOUGHT about applying for this job until my friend’s mom told me to apply at the store that she was a manager at. In a bizarre turn of events, my first job was at Victoria’s Secret. I worked there for 9 months, waking up at 5am every morning just to go to work. In time, I became one of the most important members of the stock team. When I started working there, I felt so poorly about my self-worth that I believed I deserved to be paid less than minimum wage. I went through the whole awkward stage of being called “the new guy” or “Hey, You!” because they couldn’t remember my name (it’s a pretty simple name, but they didn’t bother because retail has a really high turn-over rate), but by holiday season, the manager that trained me had been fired and I was basically the only person left who could lead the Stock Team. I ended up carrying out most duties of the Stock Team Supervisor. It took the management until February to get a new manager for that position.
I ended up quitting the job in June 2011. Right before I put in my two weeks’, I was told something that really stuck with me. I was drunk at a friend’s birthday party. The words would have had just as much of an impression if I had been sober, but yeah, I was talking with a friend of the birthday girl’s at the party. He told me that he believed the biggest problem with most people today is that they have “given up on their dreams.” That they’ve settled for less because it’s the safe thing to do. It got me thinking about how the whole time I had been working at Victoria’s Secret, I had pretty much given up on making music… I hadn’t written a song in months and at the time, I could only BARELY find time to work on the script I had started back in December… I looked within and realized how stagnant I felt… how much I lived only for the standards of the stock room, the visits by the district manager, overnight floorsets, and the presentation of a retail store that only valued me and my dedication at $8.25 an hour… I had become STUCK. I had been living for something other than my deepest desires and greatest accomplishments… I was settling for less. I went back to work for a couple of weeks, but it just didn’t feel right anymore… so I put in my two weeks’ notice. I decided that my passion, dedication, and energy could be put to better use if turned them toward myself.
After working at a job of my own, I learned that when we grow up, we start to NEED money more and more. We forget that we were once able to have fun without it, doing simple things like spending time with our friends or doing things that we enjoy. In our pursuit of money, we cut off that which makes our spirit rich. We cut ourselves off from our passions, we neglect our friends, and we become less inspired. It is driven into us by society that money is the solution to everything when in actuality, it is the cause of everything! All those feelings of worthlessness and all the times when we feel like we don’t have enough are caused by our dependence on silly green paper. For every time that we are told that “money isn’t everything”, 1000 more voices shout louder that it is.
There’s a lot of wisdom found in our aspirations. They are the things that we’ve always wished we could do. Most things are possible if you stay faithful to your goals and put the effort in. We may live in a capitalist world, but that does not mean that our bodies must house capitalist souls.
If you wake up one day and find yourself doing something that you DO NOT LOVE make plans to escape from that terrible existence. Do it only as a means to get to where you’d like to be. Also, if you plan to just drop it all and start doing what you love, expect resistance, expect judgment, and most of all expect yourself to give it everything you’ve got.
I’d like to leave you with one of the wisest lyrics I have EVER heard in a song:
“Don’t stop believing”
– Tommy Maverick
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