There is a certain surreal nature to being home, especially when you aren’t sure how long you’ll be there. Things are so familiar: the smell of the grass and air, the shadows of the giant oak tree in your front yard, the sound of the highway, and the idiosyncrasies of your family. Each is so familiar because it was all you knew for the vast majority of your life. But life changes. Life evolves and life never stops moving, not even for a second. You come home for the first really undetermined amount of time in five years and if we’re being honest: it’s scary.
It’s not horror flick, “Oh my gosh, murder in suburbia!” scary. No, at least for those who have a sense of ambition that only continues to grow as they themselves do, it’s scary in the way it is when your car is stuck in the mud, on a steep hill, in the wilderness and no one is around to hear you scream. That crippling sense of isolation and creeping suspicion of failure are always in the back of your mind, just waiting for that day you eventually break down and accept that maybe you just weren’t cut our for your dreams. Not everyone can do what he or she loves, after all who would pick up the trash?
So what keeps you going… what gets you out of bed and not reverting back into your teenage years where you griped, bitched, and moaned (believe me, it’s real tempting to)? I can’t speak for anyone other than myself of course, but no matter how much those voices in the back of my head whisper and snicker, I know that within me lies great potential, just as that same potential lies within you and everyone else on Earth, dormant or otherwise. Hell, in the grand scheme of the world, I have a major leg up on many of my contemporaries. I’m American, I’m male, I’m white, I’m straight, I’m from a middle class family, and I did pretty well at a great university. I even have a nice smile and full head of blonde hair (‘cause I just want to have fun). Aside from being a bit on the short side, I’ve hit the privilege jackpot. But even with those advantages, life can be chaotic and things won’t always work out the way we want them to. Sure, you may take a leap of faith that leads to the incredible opportunity to live in New York (Brooklyn, no less!) but even, or perhaps especially, there, no one owes you shit. Let me repeat that. The world does NOT owe you shit. You reap what you sow and you earn your rewards as best you can.
So sometimes you find yourself working in a coffee shop, living paycheck to paycheck in a dumping apartment with a super who refuses to fix your water for days. Other times you have to move home because your incredible, albeit unpaid, internship comes to an end and you know you can’t practically return to that day-to-day grind at the coffee shop (oy, puns). Then you have to deal with living at home again; maybe you have to get a job you don’t want so you can save up for your next adventure. So I return to the question above: what keeps you going after sending out your 10th, 100th, 1000th resume?
Perspective and perseverance: know that no matter how difficult life seems at the moment that it could always be substantially worse. Sure, some of your friends are finding success, but they’re your friends. Be goddamn happy for them, they worked hard too. Support them because they too will face unforeseen challenges. Most importantly, recognize that potential in yourself. You’re in good company for people who started in humbling or struggling positions and grew to have fulfilling lives and careers, some of whom even changed the world. Brian Williams, Oprah, JK Rowling, Steve Jobs, and so on. Your potential may be as hard to find and utilize as a singe needle in a field of haystacks, but ambition is a fire that requires a steady fuel source so burn, baby, burn and never let anything extinguish the fire’s guiding light.
It’s good to be back.