Finish college. Establish career, preferably in law, business or medicine. Meet man/woman of dreams. Get married, have two kids, move into a two-story house in the suburbs. Work to fill the house with shiny, name brand things. Retire. Die. It’s the way you’re supposed to do things.
I recently interviewed a local film producer who gave me an inspiring analogy about changing one’s life. He worked as a stockbroker for 33 years, while juggling marathon running and various charity projects. He finished his doctorate and taught film studies at a local university. He was very busy.
Looking back, he says, for much of his life it was like he fell off his whitewater raft and was clinging to a big rock in the rushing river. The water beat him against it relentlessly. It was going to kill him, but he was too scared of what was downstream to let go.
When he finally did let go, giving up his trade business and dedicating himself to film and music, his life became the life he wanted.
A couple of years ago, amidst a bit of an existential crisis that still lingers, I abandoned what I thought was my script of working and getting paid well. I hated the meaninglessness of the work I was doing. I went back to school. Now I work part-time, doing less important tasks that don’t follow me home. This semester I’m taking 12 hours and spending another 10 hours at an internship.
I love it. I’m busy and successful in the ways I want to be. The daily dread from lack of meaning and fulfillment is gone.
I could have stayed where I was, and would be making more money at a growing company by now.
Then I could get hit by one of the many cars speeding down Rockhill Road, and I would have spent my last days stressed, skipping what I enjoy, rushing toward the day everything would be “right” for me to start doing what I want to do — the day that would never have come.
The script we hear about what this or that chapter of our lives “should” consist of should serve only as a guideline. Some of the happiest people I know aren’t following the usual script at all, and some of the most miserable people I know did everything “right.” College is a great time to figure out what you truly want to do in your life rather than blindly accommodating what you’ve been told to do. What you truly want may look completely different from what you initially thought.
It’s also comforting to know that throughout life, you can make a change at any time.
There’s nothing more empowering than writing your own script. Ultimately, it’s yours to write.