Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What to Do for a Living

There once was a time when I was asked for my highly regarded opinion on what a young person ought to do with his or her life. And yes, I was naive enough to answer it and think my opinion would be taken seriously. I mean, really, who gives a crap what an older person thinks? It's still not going to sway anyone's life choices one way or the other, especially a young person's life choices.

But there I was, being put on the spot in front of a group of young folks, all with dreams as wide as the Los Angeles air is smoggy. Okay, let's just stop right there, why don't we? I sound really damn jaded there, don't I? Smoggy? Let's back this rig up a bit, shall we?

The title of this entry is "What to Do for a Living." Not "What to Do with Your Life." And so I answered it as such. I said, "In my experience, I don't think you should do what you love for a living. I think you should do something that you're really good at." And right away, a young blonde shot back, "I disagree completely! You should only do what you love. How can you even say that?"

Actually, she wasn't waiting for me to explain myself. She had already made up her mind, both that I was wrong, and that she was only going to do what she truly loved.

I smiled, in the way Japanese people do when they're thinking of something that doesn't really bring a smile to their face. And then I turned to a young girl who was still interested in my opinion. Which is odd, because most young people I know don't really want to hear an older person's opinion. They just want to express their own opinion, especially when they ask someone else for their opinion.

So I looked at this girl and said, "Sometimes, when you do something you love for a living, it can take the love right out of it. Especially when you're not having a good day. Or when you're sick, or tired, or both. Doing stuff you love is really good when you're in a good mood. But when you're in a bad mood, the stuff you love can turn on you. And when it turns on you, it can really suck.

"And that's why you should do something you're really good at. Because you're still good at it, even when you're not feeling well, or you're tired or sick."

The young girl smiled sweetly. In my mind, I want to believe that she pondered that little piece of advice of mine and used it to enrich her life. I wouldn't blame her, however, if that smile of hers was just a cover for something else. She was Japanese after all.

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