“Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.”
— Richard Bach
I’ve been having a conversation with a former student on Facebook about the difference between following your dreams and following the dreams other people are projecting onto you.
Throughout your life, just about everybody you encounter is going to have an opinion about what you should be doing with your life and what “success” is going to look like for you.
Understand two things:
1. You are never going to please those people.
2. You are not obligated to please those people.
I have had people give me the side-eye because I don’t have a master’s degree. I have had people give me the side-eye because I’m not on the evening news. I have had people give me the side-eye because I’m a [insert current job title] instead of a [insert higher-paying or more prestigious job title].
You know what those people have in common?
THEY DON’T KNOW MY LIFE.
I don’t have a master’s degree because I have no need for a master’s degree. It won’t get me a raise or make me a better reporter. At this point, a stats class and an Adobe Illustrator workshop would be far more useful. When I point that out, I get a mouthful of platitudes about the personal growth that comes from being a lifelong learner. Never mind that since I got my bachelor’s degree in 1997, I have studied dog training, horseback riding, distance running, martial arts, neon sign repair, metaphysics, trig, calculus, acoustic guitar, and the history of U.S. 66, all purely for sh*ts and giggles. Apparently it doesn’t count as “lifelong learning” if it doesn’t have an expiration date.
I’m not on the evening news because I’m a print journalist, not a broadcaster. I’ve never taken a broadcasting class, never applied for a broadcasting job, and never said anything that would imply admiration or, really, even a modicum of respect for that profession. Being disappointed that a newspaper reporter isn’t on the evening news makes about as much sense as being disappointed that Andre Dawson never won a gold medal in figure skating.
I’m not wherever it is someone else wants me to be, doing whatever it is someone else thinks I should be doing, because I am too busy enjoying what I’m doing here and now.
Wherever you go, and whatever you do, someone is always going to be more than happy to project his own hopes, dreams, disappointments, priorities and expectations onto you if you’ll let him.