Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Faith in the Future

at 9:00 PM
Now is the time of our lives to choose who we want to be. I know, I told my students that last week, right? I think it's true for them, but also for us. Middle school is the time you start deciding who you want to be. Picture it like a big maze you drop all the kiddos into and then shake and shake and shake. After two years of this, we hold it still, and watch closely to see who walks towards which exit. They're making decisions about their future, and they're starting to head in that direction. But the journey isn't over. How can it be? That maze is huge. Prior to middle school you have teachers holding your hands and guiding you through the maze, in straight rows. Yea, a few lost souls disappear down the wrong hallways, but most people make it to the goal. And then the shake happens. But even as they're walking towards to place they think they want to go, things can and will still happen to change them. You meet other people. You see things happen that change your opinion. The maze is long, and there are many right answers. At least throughout high school nobody is shaking that box, and mostly you're around the same people. College, too. Maybe you found a portal that transported you to the complete other side of the maze, but you still ended up in a crowd.

It's now, though, that matters. Not instead of then, but also. The maze seems to be thinning out. People are farther away. Some people have entered the final stages, and found the paths they belong to. It's hard not to stick together with people just because you always have. It's hard not to want exactly the same things they have. But we can't. It's time to be independent. It's time to live our lives. It's time to learn who we truly are, on our own. And maybe that's not the person you used to be. Maybe it's not what you grew up picturing. Maybe, just maybe, it's time to let go of those castles in the sky.

One of my favorite blogs to read is called All Groan Up. Paul Angone writes advice for those of us in limbo - 20 Somethings.

One of his recent posts was titled 5 Lies Twenty-Somethings Need to Stop Believing.

Two of the lies touched me, and I need to work on not believing them. You can read his original posts about them on his site. The following are my thoughts on them.

Lie #1: I'm the Only One Struggling

I don't believe this lie. Maybe part of this is Facebook. Maybe part of it is because I have candid conversations with my friends. I'm never worried that I'm the only one stuck in limbo, not where I want to be. I'm constantly reminded that we're a generation of people stuck in limbo because we were promised the world on a tray. I know I'm struggling, and I know you're struggling. I know we smile and pretend it's ok, most days. But I know we're unsure of the majority of our choices, still. I know we crave guidance and validation, approval of our parents and peers. I know this because I read between the lines of your status updates and texts. I know this because I cam emphasize with what you're feeling. I know this because, when I'm open and honest with you about how lost I feel, you open up to me and the relief of finding someone to commiserate with is palpable. I know I'm not alone.

But Paul brings up a point I often forget. In his post titled 7 Cures for a Quarter Life Crisis he reminds us:

Even our own parents most likely went through intense questioning and crisis in their twenties. They didn’t just teleport to success and stability. If we ask them what their twenties were like we might find out that as our parents got their stuff together, they went through their own stuff that sounds a lot like yours.

My worse comparison of my life is when I think, "At my age, my parents had two kids and a house." So what? Were they perfect parents at that age? It's laughable. I love my parents, and I believe they did an amazing job raising my sister and I, but I have photographic evidence that proves they were just as lost then as I am now. At least they had each other.

Lie #2: I Should Be Successful by Now! Like Right Now! 

Yup. Oh yea. I believe this with my whole heart and soul. Logically, my brain knows it's not true. I've been trying to convince myself of it's invalidity for over a year. But it's hard. Especially being raised as I was. I was told, my entire life, that I could do anything in the world.

"When she was three years old on her daddy's knee, he said you can be anything you want to be..." - Faith Hill

I was raised to think I was special. It was one of my core beliefs growing up that if I was a good girl, and I followed societal norms, and I went to an accredited college and graduated in four years that I would have my dream job right afterward. No one ever told me different, until over a year after I graduated college.

"Well, maybe you should go back to school and get your credential..." More school?! A change in career?! I thought I was done! I thought I'd finished all the requirements for my life to start.

Like the video games I grew up on, I had completed all the tasks, earned all the achievements, met every requirement - so why won't the bonus level unlock?!

It wasn't FAIR. And that was the only thing I could think. It's getting better now. I still have bouts where I get upset at the unfairness of it all. But I'm slowly (very slowly) chiseling away at the belief that I deserve to be successful.

And I'm constantly reflecting on how to instill the same sense of necessity in an education as I had in my children, without crippling them in the same manner. ...for my students, too.

Lie #3: Life is Not Turning Out Like it was Supposed To

This goes hand in hand with the section above. I built all these huge castles in the sky and watching them come tumbling down is the worst feeling in the world. After a long relationship ended, I felt worse about the fact that the future I had planned with him was lost to me, than about losing him. But those castles falling down are also cleansing, freeing. As I start to let go of those castles, I feel more alive, and excited for my life.

This seems like a good place to enclose a poem I wrote in high school.


Castles in the sky
Built upon a foundation
Of past hopes and dreams,
They grow so high,
And yet should fall - it seems.
And nothing keeps them up.
Nothing holds them there.
And then they tumble down,
Leaving builder in despair...
Oh that I had not
these castles in the sky.
That I could look up
And see only clouds
That float serenely by.

[Side note: The metaphor of "castles in the sky" is something I first learned about through one of my very favorite authors, Louisa May Alcott. In her book Little Women the main characters build castles in the sky for their future. As you continue the series, Jo's castle is the only one that becomes realized, but through her struggles growing up one almost forgets what her goals were as a child. Despite being a beloved children's book, this is one I suggest reading over and over into adulthood. Another reference to this metaphor is in a song by Ian Van Dahl.]

Lie #4: I Don't Have What It Takes

There are so so many reasons that this lie is one I have never believed.

The first is my parents. They gave me positive affirmations, every single day, my entire life. I never once doubted that I couldn't do anything I set my mind to.

You is kind. You is smart. You is important. - Kathryn Stockett, The Help

Another reason is my teachers. Especially the ones who said, "It's ok if I don't walk you through every step. You got this." 
Specifically, this one, and his blog What It Takes. 

My friends. Whenever I doubt myself, they remind me who I am. Because my truest, closest friends know me inside and out, and aren't afraid to tell me how to be, even when I forget. 

Lie #5: I Am a Failure

Again, this goes hand in hand with the one above. Adding to all of that, I was never allowed to be a failure. 

And I don't mean the way we do it now, for our younger generations. Not the "end on a tie!" or "don't keep score, this is just for fun" nonsense. 

It's ok to lose, as long as you try your best. It's ok not to be good at something, as long as you tried it long enough to make sure that you really weren't going to get better. 

From sports to jobs to after school activities, I was not allowed to give up. Even if I never continued, I couldn't end something mid season or mid class. Maybe it wasn't the right fit for me, that was ok. It was more important to keep trying until the very end. 

"Finishing the term, knowing that you managed a difficult schedule, will give you confidence later in life to know you can tackle difficulties. It is usually worth the pain in the long run, but it's your decision...We love you and are proud of you either way!" 
- an excerpt from my dad's email when I decided to quit ROTC 

Choosing to find something more suitable to my strengths was encouraged. Failing was not an option.

 Now is the time to choose what is suitable. Now is the time to make our stand. Find out who you are. Find your passion. But try everything, until you find that fit. You won't fail. The story isn't over yet.

I have faith in the future. I have faith in you.


Post a Comment


My Life in Limbo Copyright © 2010 Designed by Ipietoon Blogger Template Sponsored by Online Shop Vector by Artshare