When I was sixteen, my family took a road trip to Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. During this trip, my sister kept a notebook of my family's quotable quotes (there were many of them) and a running list of all the things that I said I wanted to be or do. When we passed sheep pastures, I would talk about how I wanted to be a shepherd and live on a ranch in Montana. And when we would travel roads that followed the path of mountain rivers, I would look down at the rapids spilling over the rocks and boulders and talk about being a whitewater rafter or learning to kayak.
I've always done this and still do. I have all these visions for my life. All these things I want to become, all kinds of hobbies I want to have. I can't possibly do them all at the same time. It will be hard to be a missionary in Africa and a shepherd in Montana or New Zealand while being the delight of New York's literary world and a major museum curator.
One of the best conversations that I ever had was with my best friend a few years ago. I had gone to Mexico to visit her. She was living there for a year working on a documentary. We spent a day at Monte Albán which is the site of Zapotec Indian
ruins. We sat down on steps that were built thousands of years ago and we talked about life. We talked about wanting to take trips and see places. And how we didn't want to wait until we retired to go the places we wanted to see and try things that we wanted to try.
We talked about not wanting to make working our life. Instead of living to work we wanted to work to live. We talked about how nice it would be to work at a job for awhile and save up some money, and when you had enough, quit your job and go sail around the world or take a few months in Europe or explore the Great Wall of China. Then come back, get another job, work for a couple of months or years, and then do something different. (We did
discuss the importance of retirement and insurance and blah, blah, blah. I know.) But the point was to work not just to work or because you're supposed to have a job, but to work to be able to afford all the things that we dreamed of doing.
The very best commencement speech I've ever heard, in fact the only commencement address I remember anything about, was at my sister's high school graduation in 1994. Besides being an excellent storyteller, the speaker had three really good points that I've tried to remember: 1) Do what you have to do, 2) Do what you love to do, and 3) As soon as you can, make them the same thing.
I think this is a good idea. I am trying to live that way.
In my next post I will share an incomplete list of things that I would like to do with my life. Don't miss it!