“What do you want to do when you grow up?
I’m not sure yet.
That’s okay, you have time.”
Ever heard this conversation before? I have and I think it’s incomplete.
You do have time, time to gain experience.
I believe that the actions we take on a daily basis are subtly leading us to what our lives will become in three, five, or ten years from now.
That’s why it’s so important to find things that ignite a fire within you. Whether it’s classes you’re taking, random jobs you have during college, places you travel, books you read, summer internships, volunteering, hobbies you spend time on. The experiences we accumulate today mold who we become tomorrow. And whether you’re fourteen, twenty seven, or sixty two, I believe there is always a choice within our life circumstances to find experiences that ignite a fire within us.
These experiences matter because they create the trajectory for our future and who we become. And even if we don’t like the current job or experience, there is always something to learn from it about ourselves.
I learned this lesson the hard way.
During my sophomore year of college I wasn’t happy. I hated the classes I was enrolled in. I hated my job as a research assistant because I sat in an office alone for hours on end. And because I was so busy with work, classes, and studying, I didn’t have time to do the things I enjoyed like playing soccer, making dinner with my friends, or spending time outdoors. I didn’t feel alive. I hit a wall.
One day walking home from class down East University in the December snow slush a question popped into my mind, ‘When is the last time you laughed so hard you cried?’ I couldn’t remember, and it really bothered me. Who had I become that I didn’t outwardly express joy? And if I didn’t change, would my answer to that question be the same in ten years?
So I made myself a promise, if I passed the organic chemistry class I was then at risk of failing, I would change. I would gain new experiences doing things that ignited a fire within me. Even if I didn’t know why I was drawn to them. I wanted to feel alive again, and even if I didn’t know how to ignite my own fire, I was determined to figure it out.
That was the year I began saying yes to life and to myself. I started traveling, worked at Camp Henry as a summer camp counselor, began rock climbing, helped co-found an environmental student organization, found my love of reading again, and started taking a meditation course offered by the University of Michigan.
These experiences added fuel to my fire and changed my life. I met new people, reconsidered my beliefs, and was exposed to new ideas and ways of life. My life became colorful again and yes, I passed Organic Chemistry.
But this choice wasn’t a one and done deal. Every single day when I wake up, I ask myself what I can do today that will challenge me to be better tomorrow. And I fail a lot; I’m tired, I feel drained, I try something new and I don’t like it. But I believe our responsibility is to learn and grow as much as possible during our lifetime. It’s a dynamic and uncomfortable process. But the process and challenge of gaining new experiences pushes us to reach our own highest potential, our own brightest fire, our own radiant light.
What adds fuel to your fire? What experiences make your fire grow dim?
And last, but not least, when is the last time you laughed so hard you cried?