When we’re little, we tend to get asked this question a lot:
“What are you going to be when you grow up?”
It’s usually a very cute inquiry meant to amuse the inquisitor, and is never meant to pressure anyone. It’s a fun game we play when we’re six or seven. (I recall that my 4-year-old son was dead-set on being a train. Not a conductor, but an actual locomotive.)
But as we venture closer to adulthood, the question changes a bit, doesn’t it?
“When are you going to get a job?”
“What major will you choose for college?”
“What’s your life-plan?”
“How are you going to pay your bills?”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
These questions stop being cute fast, especially when you’re someone who doesn’t have it all figured out. Sometimes you might feel a little pressured and slightly overwhelmed.
She’s my niece and freshly-turned seventeen-years-old. She’s the oldest of her cousins and the first one to grow into adulthood. Not to cause her to become self-conscious, but I must admit that we are all waiting with baited breath to see what she does with her life.
‘Cause we expect it will be dazzling.
Now that she’s nearing adulthood, the pressure to pick a life is officially on.
Thankfully, Julia is a fortunate girl. She has amazing parents, super siblings, and a ton of involved family members. She is bright, funny, athletic, a talented guitar player and possesses the most charming personality this side of the Rio Grande.
Yet, this age is so critical and yet so confusing. It’s the time many of us dive into a path we later regret. No one wants Julia to wake up at 45 and finally discover her true passion and calling after going to law school or becoming an accountant.
Yeah, she’ll pay the bills with those careers, but that’s a lot of wasted years doing something she may not be called to.
And yet, we don’t want her to linger on the sidelines of life either, wandering in circles and never getting anywhere for fear of going down the wrong path.
So I was thinking, what advice do I wish someone would have given me when I was her age? What advice might have sent me down a better path in life and closer to my calling — sooner?
In honor of her 17th birthday, I came up with 17 pieces of advice I hope will help guide her in the right direction.
Here they are:
1. Ponder the meaning and purpose of your life as often as possible. There is a great deal of noise in this world. It will do its best to distract you from delving deeper into your Faith and the true reasons you were put here on this earth. If you let that happen, you will surely miss your calling by a mile.
2. Document your life. Your experiences and perspective are unique. Treasure them by getting into the habit of recording your life through journals and pictures. When you’re 50, you’ll thank yourself for doing that. Your kids will, too. And your grandchildren. Maybe even your dog.
3. Give your time and effort to charity. Always being involved in helping those who are less fortunate keeps you grounded in what’s real. It will humble and enlighten you, plus you’ll meet better people as well. Want to meet a nice boy? They aren’t hanging out in nightclubs, sweetheart.
4. Don’t be afraid to jump in and try new things. But if you do jump in, give it 100 percent. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time. You’ll never know if you like something – or if you’re talented at it – until you truly go for it. This is your time to explore the world and what you’re made of.
5. Travel. Somehow, find a way to go places. Go everywhere. Travel opens your mind, destroys prejudices, ignites your curiosity and will make you one fearless chick. Travel, travel, travel.
6. Learn a second language. The rest of the world does it. But the rest of the world travels more than we (Americans), too. Knowing a foreign language will give you intimate access to a country and culture. Doors will open.
7. Strive for 100 percent honesty all the time. We’re living in a world where everyone lies and… no one seems to be scandalized by it anymore. When you lie, you lose touch with who you really are. Develop your sensitivity for telling the truth… and remember that there’s nothing wrong with refusing to reveal something that might otherwise tempt you to lie. When in doubt, just say nothing rather than lie.
8. Everything worth doing will take some hard work and pain. Finding your calling does not mean that you find that thing that is easiest to do and doesn’t require pain. Make hard work your friend. He will take you places most people never go ‘cause they’re too busy running from a little pain or discomfort.
9. Shun consumerism. Learn this now: Stuff will never make you happy or well-liked. Ever. Get as streamlined as you possibly can and work hard to stay that way.
10. Realize that Hollywood and almost everything that comes from it is a big scam & stop yourself from wishing to become famous or meet someone famous. Most celebrities live empty lives and produce obnoxious garbage with the only intention of making some money off of people who wish to checkout of their own lives and live in a fantasy world instead. Most of the celebrities I idolized when I was younger got involved in drugs, married and divorced several times and turned out to be quite dumb.
11. Find amazing people to emulate. (That do not live in Hollywood.) Choose people who win awards, write books and make this world a better place. Learn from them.
12. Don’t let boys take up too much of your life. Boys are fun to think about and dream about… but they can also steal your time and attention. Unless you’re ready to get married, keep them at a distance and direct your attention toward better things. This is your time to find yourself. Don’t find some boy instead. There will be time for that later. Much later.
13. Learn how to hold onto a buck. When you’re a kid, having money for the sake of having money seems illogical. Why hang onto it when you could buy candy, or a game, or a new surfboard? Mom and dad are paying all the other bills, so why not, right? Get out of the mindset fast and start saving. This habit will make life so much easier when you’re the one paying all the bills. Trust me.
14. Read. College will most likely teach you how to do a job for someone else. Reading will elevate your mind and truly educate you for a lifetime. Get a library card wherever you end up and start pursuing the shelves for the classics. Always be reading a great book.
15. Read the news every day. It’s all relevant to you whether you believe it or not. Stay up on current events and if you don’t understand why Israel and Palestine are constantly at war with each other, grab a history book and learn the back-story.
16. Always follow-through with a commitment. Even if you regret making the commitment, do it anyway. This will build character, integrity and maturity. It will also stop you from being impulsive about making commitments in the first place.
17. Finding your calling is not about finding the job you can tolerate in order to pay your bills and buy junk. Although finding a job to pay some bills could lead to you to your calling and help you develop a strong-work ethic.
How do you know when something is your calling? Aristotle said it best:
“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation.”
Surely there is more I could say to Julia. What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you were 17?