“You’re going to die soon anyway,” said my high school guidance counselor.
When I entered the room I was full of energy. Excited, intrigued, and ready to learn. My sights were set on being a graphic artist. Particularly someone who designed the background art for video games or an animated series, perhaps.
We were going to discuss college, my future, and the endless possibilities that lie before me.
The day was like a beautiful flower garden, vibrant and full of life.
“College is expensive,” said the counselor beginning his speech. “It’s not going to be very accessible. There’ll be tons of obstacles in your way. And let’s face it, you have more than one terminal illness. You’ve probably got a few years left. Why would you want to do that to yourself?”
“But I still have things I want to do.” My jaw dropping off my face.
“I understand, but you’re going to die soon anyway. Why not go home, have some fun, and enjoy the time you have left,” he said “reassuring” me of my future. The speech continued on for what felt like hours.
The vibrant flower garden drained of color, feeling more like an apocalyptic wasteland than a meadow. Each discouraging statement shaded the world a little bit darker. Each dream crushed felt like a physical blow.
Those words affected me deeply. Was he right? Should I give up and wait for death? Was it better to just have fun until the ultimate end?
Unfortunately for all of us, life can be like that; you’re humming along, minding your own business, daydreaming about your future, planning the next moves to achieve the dreams you always wanted…
Aaaaaaand then someone throws a curveball at you. Or life changes in an unexpected and unpleasant way. Or you discover seemingly impossible obstacles in the way. Or a demon offers you a totally innocent looking contract that you’re pretty sure seems legitimate except for the part where you have to sign in blood.
For years following the ill-fated meeting, I followed that advice. I gave up my dreams of college, being a background artist, and set out on different adventures of the nonacademic kind.
My goal was simple: Have as much fun as possible and make tons of friends.
At least, I thought it was simple. In the end, living the life of playing games, watching movies, hanging with friends and staying up all night every night sounds like a great time. And it is. For a while.
Eventually, you start realizing the importance of balance, purpose and wearing clothing without Cheetos stains. More on that in a future post tentatively titled ‘Your Landlord Doesn’t Accept Rent Payment in the Form of Hugs.” Which is bull. Hugs should totally be a currency.
But I digress.
The only constant in life is that things never go exactly the way you plan. There will always be obstacles. There will always be people, things and life circumstances getting in your way.
In the terribly underrated and incredibly inspiring movie ‘Creed’, Rocky Balboa motivates Adonis Creed to move past his troubles and the way things didn’t go according to plan:
“You see [that person] staring back at you? That’s your toughest opponent. I believe that’s true in the ring and I think that’s true in life.”
I didn’t waste years of my life on bad advice from some random guy in a high school guidance counselor office. I didn’t ignore my calling and settle for the life I already had because of that random guy. I lost years of my life because I listened to that advice.
I let the poison of doubt seep into my mind turning the man in the mirror against me. I let those words echo in my mind like the beat of a war drum marching me to my own demise. I let fear grab the steering wheel of my life and run us into a ditch.
Ultimately, bad advice and bad directions are all around us. Sometimes people who have your best interests at heart will discourage you from chasing your passion because it doesn’t make sense to them. Others simply can’t see your vision. Some burned out on their own paths and aren’t rooting for your success.
You have to weigh all the advice you get, sifting through it like a junk scavenger on Tatooine. Not all of it is good and some advice is downright worthless. But every once in a while you get a gem that makes everything worthwhile.
When someone dissuades you from following your passion, doing something you have your heart set on or making moves to better your future, note their opinion and move on. You have to have the strength within yourself to not only believe in yourself but stand against those who will try to move you in a different direction.
It’s easy to blame the advice or the person giving the advice. It’s easy to say so-and-so discouraged me and that’s why I didn’t make raising Alpacas a big enough priority in my life. NOW I’LL NEVER KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE SURROUNDED BY ADORABLY FUZZY CREATURES WHO VIEW ME AS THEIR GOD.
What’s not easy is to admit you stood in your own way. You have to look in the mirror and say “I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t think I was strong enough, good enough, smart enough to chase that dream.”
“But I was wrong”
What’s even harder is to tell yourself that you ARE strong enough. You ARE smart enough. You ARE good enough. You CAN chase that dream. You’re NOT going to die soon, and if you do, at least you will have died going after the things you love in life.
Don’t listen to the naysayers. Whether you want to follow something as a hobby, chase an old passion, or start that new career, only you can stop yourself from trying.
Remember, only one thing is for sure. There will be obstacles in your way. There will be people who tell you not to follow your dreams. There will be days where it feels like a hopeless endeavor. But perseverance always wins the day. Believe in yourself like I believe in you.
And as always, if this message resonated with you, share it with your friends.
Never stop striving to BE the best version of yourself.
Wonderful post. Thank you for reminding us that we are all in control of our own destinies, no matter the obstacles!
I saw you on Chuck Wendig’s blog (great post, btw) but man, this was the one I needed to read right now. Thank you. Also! I dig your site title (An Unorindarily Extraordinary Ride). I’ve been working lately on rebuilding myself after letting the naysayers get to me, and I remember that I used to be much better at keeping a “Your life is an adventure!” attitude than I have been for a while now. I’ve been getting a little better about it, everyday, but still a lot to do. Thanks again for this post.