Making the world a better place – The mystery box.
Everything happens for a reason. Some, making the world a better place. At least, this is what I told my friend today after she revealed to me that she was at risk of losing her job. A cop out, I know, but I do believe it to be true and was not disappointed in this case.
Before I begin, it is necessary to provide some context to this morning’s conversation. First, it is worth mentioning that I hold the same position within the same company as my friend. Though young and new to the professional world, both my friend and I and most of our co-workers knew from a very young age what it was that we were going to do. More than that, at a time when most of our peers were “discovering themselves” and searching for a path in life, my friend and I could have told you with absolute certainty what we would be doing, how much we’d be making, and could probably even make a pretty good guess as to where we would be living. It is just the nature of the path we had chosen.
Needless to say, the thought of having to find another calling in life was both terrifying and exhilarating for my friend. She talked in quick, excited sentences as if at any moment she could burst out crying or laughing. Increasingly, I found myself spellbound by the passion with which she spoke of “the possibilities”. Such a concept was so new to us. It was incredible to think that in just 12 hours she could be free to make her first real life-choice; a fate which most of our co-workers and peers (and probably both she and I only a few hours before) would consider to be punishment.
“Just IMAGINE what I could do!”, she said with clear green-eyes, bursting with enthusiasm. Tomorrow was no longer just another day but a box of mysteries. She thought about a life where she moved to Washington D.C. and worked her way up Capitol Hill to become the first female president or a life where she would take a pilgrimage to India and become the next Mother Theresa (and frankly, I believe she could do either one).
With that though it seemed the bounds of our imagination had been reached, or maybe it was just the realization that such a situation would mean that she’d be leaving finally hit me, but just like that, our idyllic vision of a different world came apart. I told her one thing that I know to be true and another which I believe to be false. The first point I made was that a person as driven as our could-be-first-female-president would never be able to live with herself if she knew she didn’t give her greatest effort in trying to keep her job. Such a failure to exercise her full talents would haunt and plague her for the rest of her life and act as a hindrance on any chances for further success. And the lie that I told her was that it was easy to dream of such possibilities while employed and receiving a steady paycheck but that the reality is that those things cost money and such bombastic dreams would only hold her back.
Even to type such insincerity makes me cringe. I feel all too much like so many of my mindless and jaded teachers and peers who see the world through such a frame of mind. From an early age in education we are forced to swallow the pill that is the modern day grading system. The A’s get the good colleges and will run the companies, the B’s will get some higher education and will be there to kiss the A’s asses the whole way through life, the C’s are bound to a meaningless life getting coffees for the A’s and B’s. I was the rare B that had enough of the luck and athletic talent to gain recruitment from an A college. But what should have been my big break only revealed more pills to swallow. While my classmates were all As now (or an athletic B in my case) it became a matter of how big your salary was going to be.
The AAs started well into the six-figure range while the ADs and AFs could at the very least land something in the $50K range. It was never a question of what the students did, who they helped or whether they liked it, it was all about the money they made and the influence they wielded. Favorites included investment banking and management consulting, neither of which, I’m sure, were on any of those kids career radars a year prior to going to college. Once again though, I unknowingly bucked the trend. I chose a career before the brainwashing could occur based on passion and sense of duty more than money and thus, was free to observe from the sidelines as my classmates began to warm-up for the rat race that is “the real world”.
The lie which I told my friend made me think and reaffirmed in me a sense of purpose to lead a life unbound by societal and institutional norms or expectations. Regardless of what happens to her tomorrow and where her life takes her, sitting at that coffee shop, on this dreary morning, watching my friend’s eyes light up as she dreamed of the endless possibilities of life is a moment I hope not soon to forget. It reminded me of a time when life held endless potential unbound by the laws of physics, let alone the formalities of society. A time when my driveway could just as easily be used to park cars as it could be used to play out the final seconds of the Stanley Cup finals and I could just as easily be an eight year old kid as I could the right wing for a line of professional hockey players to rival the likes of Gretzky, Messier and Kurri. A time, more recently, when I opened a college acceptance letter and saw nothing but opportunity. If more people saw the world the way we saw it today I can say without a shadow of doubt that it would be a better place to live in.