what do you do?
every time i’m asked this question, it takes me back to a simpler time. when my answer to such questions was considered amusing and endearing. now my answer confuses if not, annoys people. before we go on to what i do, let’s start with what i wanted to do.
i want to fly
back then, the question used to be ”what do you want to do when you grow up?” to which i’d reply, ”i want to fly!” much to everyone’s amusement. even more so when they realized i didn’t mean being a pilot. i simply wanted to fly.
today i wish i could fly away when i’m asked that question. in a world of specialists, i’m a generalist. where everyone’s building expertise, i’m chasing experiences. earning public recognition you say? i just want to be your friend, i say. my parents and tutors were quite certain i’d grow out of this quixotic fantasy and settle down. i’ve flown far past that expectation.
too old to be young
40 years hence, i’m still playing in neverland. even my word processor dismisses my use of the word, turning it to “nevermind.” but i’m a man of myth and mirth. i don’t want to be limited to any one pursuit. i’m the guy who chooses a unicycle instead of a porsche. can’t get your head around that? it’s easier to understand what i don’t do.
too busy to be working
i don’t work a 9-9 job. i don’t live in a mortgaged property. i haven’t married my high school sweetheart, or anyone else for that matter. i haven’t spawned any children. pinky swear. i don’t toil all week and party all weekend. i don’t own a car or drive one. when i was enticed into buying a motorbike, i jumped on a skateboard instead.
playing with madness
against all good sense, i explored higher consciousness through harder substances. “that’s going to end horribly..” they said. thankfully, it did end. but i survived to tell the tale. ”no good would come of it.” they said. today i share the experience of that synaptic kaleidoscope as a tale of exploration and caution. it’s not giving me upgrades in the corporate fiefdom. but diving into the abyss of the human mind is better than a free dive into the great blue hole.
telling tales & making friends
i don’t remember half the places i’ve traveled to. i didn’t stop to take pictures. completely devoured by the moment, i forgot all about posterity’s digital feed. and yet, i have a treasure trove of tales to spin, whenever any bonfire is lit. and when i run out of stories, i’ll help you make some of your own. for in the darkest depths of the mind, i learned the most important precious lesson of them all. we are happy, only when we share.
if the mind is a maze to get through, the body is a playground to get around. “you must learn to sit still.” they said. the desk is your altar. overseen by the god of spreadsheets and balance sheets. instead, i got up and discovered my body - that there’s more to it than hands and feet. “compete to win!” they said. instead, i played without a goal. without keeping score. i wondered how i could involve every part of my body. what game would thrill me to the bone?
i chose the oldest game of them all, to fight! “you must choose!” they said. “do you want to wrestle, grapple, kick or punch?” i hadn’t the slightest hunch. so i just tried them all. i don’t compete for pride, money, or fame. in the ring or your backyard, to me, it’s all the same. i love a good brawl. big or small, i’ll take them all. “you’re old and broken, give it a rest now.” they said. but i have more rounds in me before i’m knocked out for the count.
learning to play
information is everything. learning is difficult. knowledge is a serious pursuit. wear your wisdom soberly. none of this made sense to me. i wondered why fun didn’t feature in learning. “how can you learn when you’re playing?” they said. let’s play and find out, i said. “play? now? how?” and this is where i am now. this is what i’m doing. here’s my answer to the persistent question.
playing to learn
i want to learn to play. i want to play to learn. you grow old only when you stop learning. you stop learning when you stop playing. no matter what i choose to learn, i want to have fun along the way. i want to enjoy the magic of youth, the spring in my step, and the curiosity of the beginner mind. i want to wonder as i wander.
come, let’s join hands and play together. when we’re done collecting seashells on the shore, we’ll throw it back in the sea. for tomorrow, there will be more players in this game of life. the game will go on. the score forgotten, only the players’ exultant shouts, echo through eternity.
for those still searching for the answer of what to do, i leave you with the wisdom of mary schmich: wear sunscreen
don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life… the most interesting people i know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. some of the most interesting 40-year olds i know still don’t.