Saturday 7 June 2014

School of Life v.5: The future is yours - but is it really?

Today's school of life post is not about lessons, but about questions. I wish I had the answers to these questions, but I don't quite yet. Maybe you do?

On Thursday we attended our youngest daughter's graduation ceremony. It was well done: Since this is Canada, we had two constables of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police lead the graduates in, to the theme song of Game of Thrones. There were the obligatory speeches. It was a long affair (3 hours!), with heavy emphasis on the future: The future is bright, it's yours, dream big, you can do whatever you set your mind to, the world is your oyster. 

As I was looking around at all the middle-aged people in the audience, I couldn't help but wonder: Did all these people's dreams come true? Did they accomplish what they set out to do? Or were some of them sitting here, filled with regret for all the things they didn't achieve?
Call me a cynic, but I suspect the latter. Knowing what you want out of life is hard. Fulfilling your dreams is even harder. Here are 140 young people, being told that anything is possible - but do those people who made their speeches that night actually believe that themselves? Or are they disillusioned, going through the motions, saying what they know is expected of them? 

Did they lie to these graduates, to all of us in the audience, to themselves?

Several big names were mentioned: Steve JobsSam WaltonWarren Buffett. There were plenty of Dr. Seuss quotes, and Pinterest-worthy encouragements. But if it's so easy, why aren't more of us as successful as, let's say, Steve Jobs or Oprah? Don't we set the young people up for disappointment? Make them feel like failures, because they may not achieve everything they think they should achieve?

The line between encouragement and discouragement is a fine one. Give someone high hopes for their life that won't all pen out in the end, and there will be disappointment. Sometimes I think: is it better to not expect much, so you won't be disappointed? Or is that admitting defeat before you have even tried?  
I honestly don't know where I'm going with this. I also don't want to give you the impression that I disagree with the "reach for the stars"-attitude. On the contrary, I'm a big believer in a positive attitude. Following your dreams is essential for a happy life, and it is what I want for every single person.

But is it realistic? How many people do you know who truly live their dream life?
Oscar Wilde once said: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” 

What I took away from the speeches that night is the renewed desire to not just exist, but to live. Life has a way of picking you up and carrying you along, and if you live without intention, then you will find yourself waking up one day, looking around you and not recognizing the person you have become.

I don't want that to happen. 

My own graduation took place 15 years ago. Looking back at the person I was back then, I feel relief: relief for having found myself, for being on the path to becoming the person I am meant to be. Because I'm not done yet. But I'm so much closer now than I was at 19: At the end of High School I was confused, clueless, with only vague goals and no real ambitions.

I could see the same air of cluelessness hanging over many of the grads the other night. I know that our daughter feels that way.
So what is the answer? How to figure out what you want out of life? How can we claim our own future?

Truth is, there is no easy answer. What I have figured out myself up to this point is that you simply have to try. Experience as much as you can: read, meet new people, talk to them. Travel. Try new things. It's uncomfortable. It's a lot of work, and a lot of the time you won't feel like you got anything out of it. But you will. Maybe not right away, maybe only in hindsight. But all these experiences will add up. And one day, if you are lucky, you will know. 
You may never find your dream job (work is work, sometimes I feel the "dream job" is just a myth) - but I hope you will make your life the best it can be for you.  

Don't listen to other people who may not understand your version of dream life. In fact, whatever you have, there will always be people who won't understand it. Don't listen to them; listen to your own heart. If it makes you happy, that's all that counts. 

There's a few things I have learnt in my 34 years: Love can be found in unexpected places. Our path in life won't always be straight, and there will always be hurdles - but listen to your heart and your gut. Do whatever feels right to you, and the rest will follow. 

And if your path should just happen to involve children that are not your own, entirely too many dogs, peacocks in your backyard and bits of hay on your living room carpet - hey, I hear it works for some people. ;-)

What are your dreams? Have you fulfilled them yet? Are you still pursuing them? Let me know!

xo Miriam

The School of Life


  1. "Life has a way of picking you up and carrying you along, and if you live without intention, then you will find yourself waking up one day, looking around you and not recognizing the person you have become." You've plucked the words right out of my head. I love you Miriam.

  2. A good, thoughtful post.
    No, I do not think people can achieve anything. It depends on too many factors, we are able to determine.
    When I left middle school in 1976 (no high school or college), I had precise idea: wanted to work in the library. It was possible, but my parents forbade me (I was not yet of age to be allowed to decide for themselves)
    They forced me to learn professional dressmaker, because I was so clumsy. - It did not work, no one button I can sew on to this day ...
    It was only when I walked away from the parental home (difficult to get an apartment - that was in GDR), I could live my life. I was very happy to have never regretted the break with parents.
    Unfortunately, I'm autist and I have needed help in many ways. Had not become and could not do so much alone. For example study. By organizing overwhelmed, without social network without friends, all on their own ... it is triple difficult...(and political reasons, it was also, at that time in our dictatorial country)
    But I have learned over the years to make the most of what comes by chance. Not always my dream, but so it works -
    Well, that's life!
    I'm happy :-)

  3. I often think, are other people happy? Are they satisfied with the big picture of their life? Great post Miriam! I'm still trying to figure it all out myself.

  4. This may sound terrible but I don't have big dreams. I just want to live a good life, regardless of the little details. Does that even make any sense? Sometimes it makes me feel like a bum. Other times, it makes me feel amazing! :)

  5. I have a lot of dreams. I don't know if I will be able to fulfill them all. Most probably not anytime soon since other things have to fall into place first. But, I have hope or would like to have hope that as long as I keep taking baby steps my dreams and goals will eventually come together and happen. I am a firm believer that for most people it is all about the right timing. But, I also don't want to get stuck on my dreams and goals and the future I see for myself. Because I know things can change fast and might end up the exact opposite of what you expected. So, it is also about going with the flow.

  6. Such an interesting point. The world can only have so many Jobs and Winfreys and the rest of us are left to collect garbage and crunch numbers and figure out the mundane, day-to-day things that must be done. But like Amanda said, some of us aren't dreamers and haven't thought big. For me, I think my happy little life is enough.


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