Monday, August 31, 2015

Time's All We've Got

Life is just a giant hourglass.  A life starts out full to the brim with opportunity, waiting to be tipped over.  Then, over time, those opportunities fall through the crack, one by one, until there are none left.  I honestly believe that the day we are born we have the potential to be anything.

Yet, our society hardly gives credit for the breadth of talent and ambition we collectively possess.  We tell our kids they can be anything, but do we really believe in those words?  Usually, by anything we mean just one thing: a paying job with a desk and a spinning chair.

The theory goes, if you work long enough, you can retire with plenty of money to finish out your years in peace.  Our current system is merely a series of steps--arbitrary milestones that keep us busy, living life.  Go to school.  Get a job.  Work.  Retire.  And before you know it, time's up.

We tell ourselves that these countless moments spent completing trivial tasks and conforming to the cultural standards of life are worthwhile.  How are we so sure?  How many hours have we spent memorizing terms that we'll never use? How many days have we devoted to preparing for asinine standardized tests? How many years have we wasted pretending that money means happiness?

My final question, then, is why work 65 years to live for 10?  We waste so much valuable time trying to improve our futures that often, we forget about the present completely.  In the end, we only have so many hours on this earth.  You can spend your whole life worrying about what comes next, sure, but the future will always be uncertain.  It's never quite clear how many grains of sand are left in the hourglass.  So, start living...before it's too late.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Lasts & Firsts
The following takes place the day after Chapter 1:
            Jake lamented the underwhelming sensation he felt as he parked his red Jetta in the employee parking lot for the first time.  It was his last first day of high school.  He strutted down the corridor doling out sporadic head nods and hellos, as well as a couple of full-fledged low-fives.
            He took his usual seat on the bench, between Dylan and Erica, one arm around each.  He couldn’t help but smile.  He saw them staring, whispering, and he loved it.  That morning he had arrived early with Dylan and pulled up the blog on every computer screen in the library.  Day 2 and they were rapidly approaching 1,000 hits.  They’d hardly been back an hour and everyone was talking about their creation.
            A small pack of sophomores approached.
            “I read your post,” one daring underclassman blurted out.
            “It was really good,” another chimed in and blushed.
            Jake winked and said, “Thanks,” as the girls giggled and scurried away.
            “You guys have fans,” Erica joked.
            Dylan retorted, “You have to start somewhere.”
They all laughed as the crowds started to disperse, with eager students ambling away to their first classes of the term.  Finally, one by one, they each got up, bag over shoulder, en route to Spanish or, Woodshop, or European History.  Jake was the last to get up, as he sat and took in the scene.

For most, it was just another day of school, but for him it was something more.  He knew he would remember this one for quite some time.  But, this was no time to reminisce, far from it.  It was time to get to work.  Time to make a change for the better.  Jake still wasn’t quite sure what he'd done, but he knew it was the start of something big.  Perhaps he’d even write about it one day.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Future Is Scary

            A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called Don’t Settle.  The gist was that we shouldn’t worry too much about what we’re doing after college because we’re young and still have endless opportunities.  Since then, I’ve had a slight change of heart.
            It’s not that having a desk job really scares me anymore; after all, not everyone can love every minute of their working life.  Even the inevitable process of endless interviews and networking is a necessary evil that I’ve come to terms with at this point.  Perhaps most importantly, I’d like to reward my parents’ overwhelming generosity and devotion to my education with a paying job that affords me independence.
            At this point, my biggest fear is that once I enter the working world, I’ll be stuck.  All of my peers seem to believe that out of college, they’ll work for a few years before they find something they like better.  This first position is just one more step on the path towards a future of happiness and fulfillment.  Yet, the question I keep asking is will that future ever arrive?
            So, you make some money.  You get promoted.  You fall in love.  You start a family.  You raise your kids.  Finally, you sit back, and watch, and hope your offspring don’t make the same mistakes you did when you were young and didn’t know any better.  That’s the mantra we’ve heard over and over again—the so-called, American Dream.
            But, what if that’s not how it goes?  Is there anything else to the formula?  Is there any guarantee that going through the motions exactly like your parents, and their parents before them, will lead to any sort of sustainable happiness?
            The unemployment rate for recent college graduates is currently 8.5%.  An additional 16.8% of that group is underemployed.  Meanwhile, the statistics show that 50% of marriages end in divorce.  Also, college tuition rates continue to rise while the job market becomes more competitive.  So, by my calculations, less than 75% of my generation has a sufficient income for independence, with a bachelor’s degree.  Even if this entire group got married, we have to assume that half will get divorced, which leaves 37% employed with an unbroken family.  I don’t even want to contemplate the math for how many of those people will be able to afford college tuition in 20 years.

            Nevertheless, every day someone asks me what I want to do with my life.  At this point, my honest answer is that I have no idea.  What I do know, however, is that if this country doesn’t start moving in a different direction soon, the future isn’t particularly bright for any of us, let alone the next generation.  The truth is, we have bigger problems ahead than just making our first paycheck, and I’m afraid anyone who thinks differently is living in the dark.