In the late 90’s hit single, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen),” Baz Luhrmann offers sage advice in a unique and catchy graduation-ceremony-put-to-music format. He begins by telling his listeners to wear sunscreen, because the benefits are “well-documented by scientists.” The rest of the advice, he tells us, “has no source more reliable” than his own “meandering experience.” (If you didn’t notice this guy has a sense of humor.)
I must admit that I love this song. It’s like a 5-minute version of Self-Improvement 101, and it’s catchy! Unfortunately, sandwiched in between his reminders to stretch and get plenty of calcium, Mr. Luhrmann throws in this piece of advice:
“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at twenty-two what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”
My initial reaction to that would be: Ouch! This is exactly what we don’t need! We do not need to be encouraged to lack direction and purpose. That’s what we’re already doing! Rather, our generation needs a kick in the pants that says, “Wake up! The stakes are high! The time is now! Get going!”
But then I realized that while Mr. Luhrmann advice was bad, he was also responding to one of the other reasons that our generation is having trouble growing up: We are overwhelmed with the responsibility of figuring out what in the world we’re going to do with our lives.
After all, we already live in a world of overwhelming choice: there are 40 kinds of coffee beans at Whole Foods Market, 205 channels on DirecTV, and 15 million personal ads on Match.com. And guess what? Unless you expect to find your life’s mate online those are all relatively insignificant choices!
What seems to trip many young people up are the 800,000+ career choices on Monster.com. It was all so much easier back when you were simply “destined” to be a blacksmith just like your father, and his father, and his father’s father, and his father’s father’s father, and his fath . . . you get the point.
But seriously, the question of life purpose weighs heavily on many young people and some of us just don’t want to deal with it. Marshall Herskovits, producer of the television show Thirtysomething, explains, “When you talk about this period of transition being extended, it’s not what people intended to do. But it’s a result of the world not being particularly welcoming when they come into it. Lots of people have a difficult time dealing with it, and they try to stay kids as long as they can because they don’t know how to make sense of all this.”
What is Mr. Herskovits referring to when he says “all this?” He talking about those questions: What are you going to do? How are you going to do it? Where are you going to go? How are you going to get there? Those questions that seem to jump you out of the blue and then plague your subconscious with their persistent nagging.
But don’t worry. I’ve been there too. I know the paralysis that comes with big decisions. However, I’ve also learned that the only way to avoid being overwhelmed with the big choices (and everybody has to make them) is to start moving. Just start putting one foot down after another.
Here’s why I say that: I think that the reason these 20+ year-olds are paralyzed by questions of direction and purpose is because they failed to start moving on these decisions when they were teenagers.
So here’s the practical application: Start planning now! Starting thinking about what you’re going to do after high school and after college. Start thinking about career paths and what you want in a marriage partner. Better yet, start praying about these things. You can’t cram on this test. The consequences are long-term.
Feel free to change your mind 200 times or even 200,000 times. But having a foggy idea of what the future holds does not bode well for you.
In closing, I know that we all get tired of people asking us, “So what are you doing after high school?” But the truth is, “There’s few better questions for them to ask!” The reason we are often unprepared for our future is that we haven’t spent enough time thinking about and planning our future.
Sorry, Mr. Luhrmann. We don’t want to be “interesting” 40-year-olds or even “interesting” 22-year-olds for that matter. We are called to a higher standard.
In the comment section I want each of you to answer to one or more of the following prompts, but please don’t limit yourselves to what I have provided.
1.) At this point in time I plan to attend the following college . . .
If you are not planning on attending college don’t feel badly. College is not always necessary, advisable, or affordable.
2.) At this point in time I plan to pursue the following career . . .
Ladies, “wife” and “mother” are both suitable and admirable answers.
3.) At this point in time I desire the following characteristics in a spouse . . .
Please specify (if it is not already clear) whether you are describing a husband or wife.
Remember, the idea is simply to get you thinking about these things. Expect these answers to change over time, but if you don’t have an answer to one of the question it is likely that you lack direction in that area.
Also, you must realize that this is far from a complete list. Believe it or not, before you can start figuring out answers to purpose-related questions you must first figure out what all of those questions are! I would advise that you start developing a list of questions you want to have answers to.