“What do you want to do with your life?”
This question confuses me every time. It presupposes that this is a humane, natural, and healthy system, which it is not. The question also assumes that you were born into this great mystery of life merely to assume an identity based on your job title and how much revenue you generate for a corporate hegemony in one of the major spheres of human endeavor, which you were not.
But if someone has a humane, healthy soul, then it naturally follows that their dreams and passions will very often fall far outside the operation and maintenance of a broken and inhumane system. Indeed, they often shrink from advancement in countless industries when they realize the destructiveness of so very many of them.
You are not a loser or a failure in need of medication and therapy just because your heart does not thrill at the thought of being a cog on the wheels of the machine. You are not insane simply because you do not see joy and purpose in “quarterly profits” and “agile project management” and “synergy.” Cosmic, personal, spiritual meaning very often has little to do with what people mean when they talk about “career” or “job title,” especially in the USA.
A few very fortunate souls find meaning right inside those labels, but often that is rare. And yes, you have to eat, and so you will at least for a bit be forced to work jobs you hate for pennies while you enrich gigantic monopolies that do terrible things best left unsaid. But you needn’t feel this is the way things always have to be, either for you or for others. This is a self-destructive system maintained at gunpoint, and as a great revolutionary martyred priest in the USSR once said, any system that depends on bullets to survive is doomed to fail eventually.
I suspect that the misfits and the outcasts of a bad system are not just the evidence of its brokenness but the harbingers of its inevitable replacement.
I guess this unusual period is just a big reminder to me that even though you have to do the grind and serve the Machine for a period so you can eat and pay bills, there is a whole hell of a lot more to life and Consciousness for each and every one of us, and I hate to see people (and particularly young people) made to feel that there is something wrong with them for wanting more out of life than a title, a 401K, a loveless and statistically boring marriage, 2.7 generic children under the thrall of some hellish suburban neighborhood association, and quiet submission to the system that drains life and joy out of them.
You don’t have to be a lawyer or an accountant to be worthy. You don’t have to get an MBA to carry the Divine fire. And you don’t have to be Employee of the Month to find meaning and joy.
Yes, I believe it’s a world made bad and difficult largely by bad and difficult people; but I also believe it can be a beautiful world if we just wake up and break out of the Hamsterwheel Haze that we’ve been conditioned for generations to accept as “normal.”
So no, I don’t know “what I want to DO” in the sense of career and grad school and all that. But I very much know what I want to experience.
I want to give and receive light, humor, intelligence, and kindness. I want to find useful, delightful purpose in work that I love and am good at, and which impacts others in a positive way. I want to live in a safe, peaceful, fair, kind, intelligent world that has shed forever the twin miseries of stupidity and fear-based bigotry.
I want to experience community with people who, like them or not, treat others like human beings. I want to live in a world where never again can vampiric juntas use legal and financial cheats to enslave 99% of their fellows for a *lifetime* to want and fear. I want to live in a world free of multinational corporations that start oil wars and use child slaves to manufacture overpriced garbage for sickly, overworked, impoverished consumers drowning in debt. I want to live in a world where one needn’t indenture oneself to decades of debt-servitude for the crime of needing medical care or wanting an education.
I want to live in a world where basic decency is *normal* and where people treat other people like human beings.
I will never, ever be able to put that stuff in a standard resume or job interview or even 9 out of 10 normal conversations, but when people keep freaking asking me “So, you’re at that age, what do you want to do? Shouldn’t you know?” And when I hear the implied, “You’re running out of time, you lazy piece of garbage;” well, these are the things I inwardly scream while I smile and continue to eat sh*t from friends and strangers alike, and while I ignore the judgment for my car, or my income, or my title, or my alma mater, or any other number of absolutely f*cking idiotic things that the majority of fellow Americans pummel me with in casual or in intimate conversation.
So no, I don’t fit into the current system (like, at all). I’m very, very weird from the perspective of the system. And people who are gifted with natural skillsets (and good for them!) that help them to navigate the system often shy away from people like me. It doesn’t make them or me bad; we just don’t speak the same language or see life in the same hues.
But I want to take encouragement for myself, and for my fellow misfits that we don’t suck and we don’t lack worth simply because our jagged edges don’t fit into the world. Maybe our jagged edges are *meant* not to fit. Maybe those jagged edges help to poke sleeping people and make them perk up and pay attention and change things. Maybe it’s OKAY and even GOOD to be weird and pokey in a world such as this, because this makes people ask questions and feel uncomfortable enough to challenge the status quo.
I don’t ever think I’ll be a CEO or have a top-floor office or present a quarterly report to The Board, and I don’t think in a million years I would enjoy those things. If other people do, hey, that’s totally fine, and good on you. But when I am getting ready to die, I want to know that I did as little harm as possible, and I made a few people feel good and warm and bright, at least for a few moments, along the way. Those are the golden moments of laughter and fellowship, when we kindle the divine fire in each other.
Sometimes they happen on long hikes or during 12-year-old in jokes with old friends or while making love or when you give your last sandwich to the homeless guy or when you hold a weeping stranger and help them feel a little less alone in a loss you can barely fathom. They happen when you lose yourself to the great music and when you stare at the stars. They happen when you let go of I for just a second and step into We.
But those moments? Those cherished memories of the junction between space and time when God embraces herself and sings love into the Now like a wordless song of comfort and hope? That’s the good stuff. That’s what I carry with me.
That’s what I want to do with my life.