“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor” – Henry David Thoreau
I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first discovered that quote, maybe 12-ish, but when I did, I printed it out, put it in a frame, and kept it on my bedside table throughout the remainder of my childhood. I’ve always loved it, believed it, and, although life has kicked my ass into different directions, I still do.
The thing is, I never really developed any true passion for anything while I was in my formative school-age years. For a while, I had the idea that developing computer-animated movies, like Toy Story or Minions for example, would be really cool. Realizing that, the vast majority of the time, I can’t draw for shit, I had the good sense to not pursue the idea…not that I knew how to pursue it anyway. Beyond that, I honestly cannot think back to my childhood/early-teen years when I had some sort of epiphany regarding what I wanted to do with my life. Truth-be-told, I didn’t even know what my options were. I always considered myself to have been a good student, getting A’s and B’s, with the intermittent straight A’s, throughout my entire primary and secondary education. However, good grades don’t equate to a career choice.
During my junior and senior years of high school I was in Building Trades class, enjoyed building houses, and upon the encouragement of my teacher, sought a junior college program in construction management. Having no earthly clue what I would ultimately do with the degree, or any other ideas for schooling, I went for it and graduated with the Associate’s degree in 2007. While in the program, having always loved math, I developed an interest in construction estimating and came to the idea of becoming a property damage insurance adjuster. Interviewing for one position, against a stack of applications about 4 inches thick, with zero experience, I didn’t get the job. I took to a job-listing site (Monster, I think?) and rather quickly got a job as an insurance salesman with AFLAC. I loved the thrilling potential of unlimited commission-based income; unfortunately, no matter how much passion and drive one brings to the table, things don’t always work out and, after just a few short months, I was broke, with credit card debt, and moving back home with my parents to work at a factory.
I worked at that factory for three years awaiting my now-wife, your mother, to graduate from high school, then community college, all while also working on additional prerequisites of my own. While working at the factory, I knew that I wanted to go back to school…for what, was yet to be determined. I tossed around the ideas of criminal justice, culinary school, teaching, and space man (just kidding)…I didn’t know what the hell I wanted. Thankfully, my mother-in-law, your grandma, was going through and graduating from nursing school around this time, prompting me to consider that as a possibility, as well. I really loved the idea of teaching history but knew that teachers in my home-state of Illinois were being canned left-and-right. The more I looked into nursing and developed an understanding of the ridiculous number of career paths, including teaching, nursing could present, I had my choice.
At this point, with absolutely no prior experience working in healthcare, I was not in pursuit of any preconceived notion of a “passion” I had. I took a course to become a Certified Nurse’s Aide and thus began the cultivation of my passion. I have now been a nurse for nearly two-and-a-half years and I could not be happier with my career choice. My career started in Indiana, working with a population of patients dealing with diabetes and kidney issues. Now I find myself working in South Dakota on a Native American reservation. Next? Well, that’s for another post.
The point is that my passion for nursing was not some innate sense of purpose for my life…but it is now. I honestly can’t see myself doing anything else because I love it. Having the opportunity to help people every single day is incredible and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. As I continue to cultivate my passion and look forward to the future, I know that my opportunities are near limitless.
It is my sincerest hope that you, my son, will find a passion for your own life, no matter what it may be. As your parents, I believe it is our duty to present you with opportunities, helping you to see the many options that are available to you. Likewise, we have an immense responsibility to be realistic with you. To guide you in seeking out and fine tuning your strengths while also working on your weaknesses will, theoretically, help you succeed in finding a passion worth cultivating. While I would never advocate for the idea of blatantly telling you that you can’t do something, if you come up to me at sixteen, tell me you want to be a musician and have never picked up an instrument in your life, I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that your odds of success are, while not impossible, incredibly unlikely and that you should consider music as a hobby, not a career. However, if you tell me you want to travel the country with a back pack and live off the land, I’ll support that…so long as you have the knowledge and skill set that would allow for this choice.
The point is, I don’t care what you do with your life. That’s not to say that I am aloof with regards to your choices; what I mean is that your mother and I will expose you to as many life experiences and career options that we possibly can and, whatever you ultimately choose to do with your life, we will support you in your rational and well-thought-out decision. Your future will be a heavily researched and discussed topic throughout the entirety of your childhood. Whether you want to be a doctor, an unemployed vagabond, or anything in between, we will not allow you to come to that decision lightly. However, in the long run, no matter how much effort we put into helping you, your choices will ultimately be just that…your own…and, as long as you’re happy and find peace and contentment in your life, I’m good with that.
P.S. – I would like to extend a huge thank you to Ernie at Purple Sweatpants for inspiring this post.