Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Advice for Lindsey on Her H.S. Graduation
by Skald


The first thing I'd like to tell you about being your own person is that its not always easy! Living your own life often means looking foolish, even stupid. Unfortunately, I don't know of any way to avoid this. Sometimes you will be brilliant and sometimes you'll be an idiot! And that's fine. I don't think its possible to be your own person AND to never fail. Failure is part of life.

The good news is that living your own life is alot more fun than conforming. I can't promise you that you'll always be successful.... or that it will be easy.... or that you won't feel lost and confused at times. But I can promise you that your life will be much more interesting if you pursue your crazy dreams... you may not succeed, but you will learn and grow and be interested and excited about your own life. Doing what everyone else tells you to do may be safe-- but its also BORING!

So what does it mean, exactly, to be your own person? I think it means that you take your wisdom from your own experience, rather than believing what people tell you. So many people are living inauthentic lives. They believe things because their parents told them, or the TV news told them, or their cool friends told them, or their minister told them, or the law told them, or the "experts" told them. Letting these people rule your life is disastrous. Joseph Campbell calls such a life a "wasteland". You can't live a full life if you merely accept what people tell you. You've got to find out for yourself.

"And what is the nature of a wasteland? It is a land where everybody is living an inauthentic life, doing as other people do- doing as you're told, with no courage for your own experience. To live an authentic life, take your wisdom from your own experience. Because in thinking, the majority is always wrong". --Joseph Campbell

Being yourself means finding what inspires you, what makes you excited, thrilled, enthusiastic, and happy. There is only one way to find that out and that is to take risks and try things and experiment with your life and explore and learn and fail.... and most of all, to follow your instincts and desires wherever they take you. To be yourself you must have the courage to make mistakes. You must have the courage to look foolish. You must have the courage to look strange. You must have the courage to ignore what other people say. You must have the courage to follow your unique genius wherever it takes you. It won't let you down.

Never trust anyone who tells you you can't do something. I encourage you to trust yourself. Don't trust "society", don't trust the "experts", don't trust celebrities, don't trust teachers, don't trust me. Trust yourself and know that even if catastrophe strikes, you will be OK. You will handle it. You will learn and grow and move on.

And to be yourself you must forget playing it safe. If I have one piece of advice for you, its this: Don't Play It Safe!!

"If there's one thing I hate, it's the word 'safety'. We live in a civilization of safety, in which we are eventually cacooned from all danger, that is to say, from all experience. What we are left with is a vegetable plugged into a computer, who never leaves the room. We would be well advised to rediscover risk. Take the chance, Dance before you calcify!!" --Hakim Bey

I've worked with dying cancer patients and dying AIDS patients and they had a powerful effect on me. What struck me was that they never regretted the mistakes in their life. What they regretted, terribly, were the things they never tried, the dreams they never pursued, the things they never said. Time after time they gave me the same advice: don't play it safe, pursue your dreams, don't be afraid to fail, don't hold back, try everything!

I guess I'm merely passing along their advice.

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