“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
We are conditioned, since the early days of our youth, to figure out what our purpose in life is going to be. Hidden in a seemingly simple question asked by nearly every adult to nearly every child they meet.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”.
Sometimes this question is met with “I don’t know..”, but more often than not it is met with something truly special. It is met with imagination. That question use to open up doors in my mind that I didn’t even know existed, because inside of a question like that lies possibility. Something like that asks you to look out into all of the opportunity that exists in a world that's just beginning to form. As children we aren’t concerned with what we are going to “one day” become. We can become anything. We know, instinctually, that there are no limits on us. In one moment we are astronauts, superheroes, scientists, and professional athletes all in the making. From moment to moment we change and grow because nobody has told us that we can’t.
But then there comes a day when someone finally does. Someone tells you your dreams are too high, or that you aren’t capable of something, and when that happens, there is a world shift. Suddenly the possibilities begin to find limits. The expanse of the universe seems to creep in and walls come up defining what we are going to be capable of. All too often it is the very people and institutions that should be propelling us forward that hold us back. Standardized testing in schools to decide if you are “smart”. Parents or peers deciding that your future could not possibly be brighter than theirs. The limits others have placed on themselves begin to become our own, further and further defining ourselves by those we are surrounded by.
We often hear, “you can be anything you want to be.”
And just as often are told, intentionally or otherwise, “this is what you’re capable of being."
But that's not how the universe is set up.
We as human beings have devised methods to try our best to define intellect, or creativity, or potential but the reality is that these things are undefinable. They are ever changing and growing, just as we are. They are fluid and elusive and spectacular and though we know they exist, much like the non-physical mind or the very souls we seek to satisfy we may never be able to prove it.
And in the midst of all of this growth and change in each of our lives there is always that question which grows with us, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”.
It changes and grows as well, maybe not for the better, “What are you going to do when you grow up?" & “What kind of man are you going to be?” & eventually “What are you gonna do with your life?”. These existential inquisitions can be wildly overwhelming and end up pushing us into careers and relationships we don’t want just to keep us from being less than the status quo. We give up our individuality to keep us from feeling left out and alone. As a young man you view women through a lens that society has handed you which is too commonly the same lens that tells you to want whatever everyone else wants. Depending on your upbringing men and women are given a place in society, and we are told not to buck that system. That it works and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”. This mentality is forced upon us to keep us, without question, in line. To keep us in a place that has been decided for us, so that we teach our children the same things we were taught. To keep us from feeling alone, or rather original, we are implanted into the system that is already in place. If we act properly and do and say the right things then we become part of the whole. We are no longer alone.
But we are alone, and it is nothing to be scared of. You, alone, are in charge of planning your destiny. You, alone, hold the power to change your entire world. My mom use to say to me “the world doesn’t revolve around you.” But make no mistake that it does. Your universe is created every day by the things YOU do. Not others. You are in control of your life, your actions, your responses to the stimuli that come into your life everyday. Each of us chooses how we think and act and where we push ourselves forward. Not over others, but for ourselves the best we can. We decide how to be the best men and women possible each day every time we make a decision. It’s with that knowledge and hope that we wake up every day full of possibility again. Knowing we are capable of anything is how we decide what we are going to be and do. Just like when we were children we should rise with unabashed imagination and reach into the furthest recesses of our minds to search for, and hopefully one day find, the answer to that question that's been asked of us too many times to count. But this time there is a difference, now we hold the power to both the question and the answer. So I dare you to ask yourself the last version of the eternal question, and to challenge yourself to truly dive into the honest depths of your passions.
“What kind of man do I want to be?"