Friday, May 04, 2007

It's not about living under command

Oh, the great stuff you can find on YouTube. While searching the other night for interviews with writers/critics I respect, I came across this clip of Jim DeRogatis on Roadtrip Nation. Briefly discussing his time at Rolling Stone, there was a link to Roadtrip Nation's website advertising the full interview. As I searched for his segment, I watched a few episodes and really dug what I saw.

If you've never seen the show, its premise involves taking three groups of soon-to-graduate college students and sending them cross-country to interview all kinds of people. The goal is to see how these people became successful in their chosen fields. Even six years post-college, I found these insights to be very inspiring.

Finding the full interview clip with DeRo, I was really moved by his final quote. Discussing his upcoming show with his band VORTIS, he describes the band's frontman: a 65-year-old political philosophy professor at Purdue who's written twenty-three books.
On paper, he's not supposed to be fronting a rock band. But if you're gonna live by those rules of what you're supposed to do and let somebody tell you what you can't do, there's not much point in living.

This got me to thinking: why do we let other people's rules dictate our lives? This is something I've wondered about for years while letting plenty of "rules" dictate my life.

Make no mistake, I've been a people-pleaser for most of my life. I've always done what I've wanted to do, but preferably out of other people's view. I never thought anybody would fully understand me, so I'd just hang out in my room reading books and magazines and listening to the music I wanted to listen to. If not a lot of other people knew what I was up to, I didn't have to worry about being judged and/or dismissed. Well, that worked in high school, but the gameplan started losing its power in college.

All through college I believed there was going to be an easy track post-college. There would be a steady job, promotions and a pretty smooth working life. In a lot of ways, that has been my case, but in other ways, it hasn't. I believed for a long time that you're not really a functioning member of society until you have a full-time job with benefits. The same applied to making a yearly income over $30,000. It also applied if you were still single by a certain age. Well, I've been guilty being all of those, and I'm just now understanding this is not failure. It's life. It's unscripted. And there's nothing wrong with it.

Most of the time, the desire to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer comes from parental wishful thinking. There's no fault in encouraging children to aim high, but not everybody can be doctors, lawyers and engineers. My parents, like many of my friends' parents, have never pushed me to go into one field or another. The only push (and the kind of push I agreed with) was to actually do something with my life. That "something" is still in development, but I think I have a better picture now compared to six years ago. What I perceive to be average society's rules still dog me and often think about them. When I start thinking about why I think about them so much. It's a vicious cycle.

As simple as it sounds and as lofty as it sounds, I am firm proponent of "follow your bliss." That doesn't necessarily imply your bliss will ever make you money, but if you don't, it will more than likely result in a pitfall. Sure, it would be nice if I made a healthy income writing about the stuff I write about, but that's not why I do it. There's this inner drive that says I have to do this. Though there are people who think doing a serious hobby isn't worthwhile unless you make money off of it, that's not me. Writing is not an option for me. It's like breathing.

But we all run into people who tell you to give up your dreams and follow the rules. Chances are, these people gave up their dreams a long time ago and have been regretting it ever since. So they want to serve you their sour grapes and call it being a realist. Now I'm not some dreamer with a head in the clouds, but I'm not a non-dreamer with a head stuck in the mud. Dreams can be attainable with healthy pragmatism. Any time I doubt this, I think about a certain friend of mine who is doing the whole suburban dad routine, but is still writing professionally and is still an amazing person with a passion for music.

Probably the best part of life is living it. Sure, you can read the playbooks and rulebooks of others, but they can't predict your own life's outcome. It's the whole difference between "knowing the path and walking the path." And like Hot Water Music sang about, it's not about living under command.

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