1: Get a job you like. -- The relentless grind of working at the same thing for even twenty hours a week leaves it hard to imagine that some occupation will be tolerable in thirty years. And yet I feel like society's expectation is just to do it anyway... you're in debt, after all, so buck it up and live for two days of the week.
This very summer, I asked the novelist William Styron in a Chinese restaurant how many people on the whole planet had what we had, which was lives worth living. Between the two of us, we came up with seventeen percent. - Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Timequake
2: Even more, do something you're passionate about. -- My idealogical diet in middle school was a steady stream of "Dream big" and "You can do anything you put your mind to." Since then I have had rounds of experiences telling me what I cannot do -- internships I have not gotten, job applications I've submitted with no responses, boys who have not liked me (Crazy, right? What the hell.), an emotional stability that turns out was mostly circumstantial, you get the idea. So getting passionate about anything, and moreover, trying to act on that passion seems like a short road to more disappointment.
But I have people in my life that are more durable than me. Rachel wants to (and does) write and submit scripts. For her senior project she co-wrote and acted in a full-length play. Tyson plans on starting a pub ministry that caters to folks who'd rather hang out in bars than in church. Lindsay has worked her ass off to get into the PeaceCorps and has these crazy ideas about volunteering. Also, her brother (her own brother!) said she was the most genuinely loving person he's ever met. Jay is going to grad school next year for classical guitar. Stu is working night shift for an animation studio. The folks in the Squalrus Art Collective are pulling together to support each others' endeavors in music, art, and writing. John is studying to become a Pastor in a denomination he actually cares about. Christa works with kids (is lead teaching!). Mitch is working at an alternative high school that's working to help juniors and seniors graduate. The staff works education around relationship -- the theory being you only learn from someone you care about. And Mitch cares about trying to buck the cycle of poverty.
As jaded as I am about the motivational-poster version of "doing something you're passionate about," there is nothing cheap or flighty about the efforts made by these folks.
3: Live in community: My Dad told me on the phone the other day that I'd probably lose contact with people from college. We all grew up in different places, and we don't have any place of commonality except for Whitworth, from which we are dispersing. Normal adult American behavior is to move where there are jobs or family. It's to live in the suburbs in a house with a mortgage. Eventually, your circle is made up of your children's friends' parents. Standard procedure is to have pleasant acquaintances from whom you can keep your flaws, struggles, and general personal details. The people you spend time with mirror your social station -- marital status, children's age group, occupation, political beliefs, income.
It would be different to not lose touch. To live with friends even once you're married, in an apartment complex, in a commune. To have relationships like the women have with each other on Sex and the City: being transparent and real and occasionally assholes together even when your circumstances or opinions differ.
Get close to people in ways that are not already sketched out and named for you: spouse, co-worker, parent, friend, affair.
There was a little old man at the Y who was telling me about his daughter. She was sailing down the whole coast of North and South America! This man knew several language and had traveled all over the world. I was thoroughly bored listening to him.
Because even if you do the most awesome things in your life, the people you tell stories to, unless they experienced it with you, won't care.
(And also I'm hoping that this post will encourage you to have this different kind of community with me.)