When I was a young child, I remember coloring red apples, earning stickers, and being encouraged to try new things. Every dream was destined to occur, if not in the moment, then when I was “big enough.” I was going to be an inventor, and there was really no hesitation about it. I had big visions, little experience, and no limitations. “Reach for the stars!” my teachers would say. I had. I had conquered that quest the first time someone had inspired me to. I stretched my wiggly little fingers up to the sky, pushed my heels off of the ground with my tip-toes, grunted, and extended myself as high as I possibly could. When I had exerted every bit of energy that I had, and could no longer maintain my balance, I landed my heels back onto the ground, my eyes shining with pride. “Mommy, did you see how far I reached?” I celebrated. As a young child, the victory was in the reaching. You cannot be defeated when your pride lies in your efforts, so long as you try.
You cannot be defeated when your pride lies in your effort, so long as you try.
We are created with an intrinsic desire to push ourselves beyond our natural capabilities and exceed the expectations of the world we are trying to impress. In childhood, there is no question to whether or not we possess magic. We confidently and impatiently wait for the catalyst that will enable us to change the world, be the best, and do the impossible. We read books and watch movies that motivate and inspire us and then we lace up our shoes and take the steps we believe are necessary to make it happen! When we don’t succeed, we are encouraged to try again.
Then one day, we “grow up.” The cliché, “reach for the stars” cues an eye-roll. As we approach adulthood we are often advised against pursuing our dreams and encouraged to choose something more practical and socially acceptable, like going to college, taking over the family business, or working for a corporation with the intention of “climbing the corporate ladder.” The problem with this advice is that according to multiple studies and surveys done in the last few years, an average of about 12% of college graduates are unemployed, while nearly 50% are working in fields completely unrelated to their college degree. (source). Among the employed in the United States, it is estimated that less than half of Americans are satisfied in their current job. (source). In addition, the average American will hold ten different jobs before the age of forty according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Assuming that you work a forty hour work week, fifty-one out of fifty-two weeks a year, you will spend 2,040 hours per year at work. If you spend 45 years of your life employed, that is 91,800 hours of work. It would be wise to choose a career that interests you if you don’t want to spend that much time wishing you were doing something else.
Hating your job can lead to stress, depression, anxiety, weight gain and lack of sleep. To a person who already suffers from mental illnesses, these issues can trigger panic attacks, depressive episodes, irritability, relationship problems and despair. The combination of some of these factors can also cause a weakened immune system, increasing the chance of becoming seriously ill.
My favorite quote ever spoken or written into existence is this:
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
My dear friends, ask yourselves why you are in the position that you are in. If it’s not because you want to be there or because you love what you are doing, re-evaluate the importance of your health and happiness. You will not excel consistently doing something that you hate. Eventually you will give up or die in monotonous woe. If you feel that living a life that fascinates you is nothing but a fairy tale, remember the quote I posted last week: The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself (Mark Caine). You must consciously take action–one step at a time. Do something that satisfies and fascinates you each day, and you will stumble into living and accomplishing your dreams.
I once wrote a short-story in college that received an “F” by a professor who both disapproved and misunderstood the content of my story. She accused me of being homophobic and a bigot. The irony was that the fiction piece was meant to expose bigotry. As a closeted lesbian with a religious upbringing, I was mocked and belittled at my university for my ties to the Christian faith. I struggled coming to terms with my sexuality because of my desire to be accepted by my family and the church. I was also pushed away by liberals, who rejected me as strongly as the evangelical church rejected the LGBT community. Realizing that both communities were equally harsh on each other, I decided to write a protagonist that both parties could root for with content that would cause the reader to examine their own biases.
I won’t cover it up, I cried when I was confronted with my grade and the comments about my work. I did not, however, stop writing or addressing taboo topics. Today, I am a published author and I travel around the United States speaking to both the LGBTQ community and the Christian community about tearing down stereotypes and reducing stigma and intolerance.
Follow your passions, be genuine, listen and learn before you judge, and have confidence that though a fish can’t climb a tree, it sure can swim like Michael Phelps!
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If you’d like to read the fiction story tackling bigotry you can find it here.
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