I once volunteered for a community group that had me teach a kindergarten class. The kids were well behaved, but a little squirmish because the lesson (math) was getting a little tiring. To keep their attention, I asked the standard question we all get in elementary school, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Hands shot up in the air. “I want to be a baseball player.” Pretty cool. “I want to be a doctor.” Ambitious. “I want to be fútbol player.” Nice! “I want to be a snowman.” Oh, um, that’s interesting.
Why do I tell this story? Well, I think the kid was onto something. I’m not sure being a snowman in Southern California is a good choice, but metaphorically the idea is a fascinating concept worth exploring. Imagine, as the seasons change, you’re constantly being rebuilt, changed and renewed. At the same time, not only are you changing, you’re changing with the world around you.
I constantly think about how I’ve changed during the years, how sometimes it was my choices that got me here and how other times it was pure WTF? How did we get to this point of happiness and unhappiness? Philosophers have scratched their heads to that question all the way to their grave. In college, you may even be assigned the hard task of writing a paper about it.
Still, I ponder about what it means to live in this world filled with political and economic strife and most recently, the passing of visionaries like Steve Jobs. Life as we know it, even after years and years of education, still doesn’t make sense. We listen to TED talks, NPR, ask advice from our peers to navigate through this strange world of debt, relationships and Occupy (insert: location). Even our heroes have failed us.
Lately, I’ve been asking advice from people on where they are at in their careers. A former editor of a major news publication told me, “I went into the news business to slay dragons, and now I’ve become the dragon,” his reference to leaving the newspaper business to become a lobbyist for some not-so-popular institutions.
Another dabbled in music and realized he needed a job that he can “grow grey hair in” – he settled on insurance. Yeah, I didn’t like the idea of the snowman at this point. We were supposed to be built better, faster, stronger (thanks Kanye) but instead, each season seemed a little more hopeless.
Maybe, I’m just in a rut, where I’ve melted down to nothing. Do you ever feel like that? It’s pretty humbling. J.K. Rowling said in a commencement speech at Stanford that times like these are important. It is failure, and the stripping away of the inessential, that allows us to rebuild ourselves. This is where we choose to keep fighting. Keep living. Even Steve Jobs, after being ousted by Apple, a company he built, felt this way. This is what gives me hope for myself, and for this time that we live in.
Maybe it’s pure idealism, or, taking the words of Jobs and Rowling to heart, maybe this country will rise above this recession into something better. Maybe we’re going through this stage to remind us that we are not self-made gods, but rather human beings susceptible to failure. Even Winston Churchill, that giant Brit of a man, to which failure could not be an option summed it up nicely, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” Even after we’ve melted into depression and despair, time gives us another chance. It’s our choice to keep fighting that makes the difference.
This is why I admire those who are “Occupying.” After being beaten down by the burden of debt and joblessness and a slew of other wrongs done by corporations and even the government, they are doing something about it. Only time will tell if they are successful, and the idealism of a little kid dreaming of becoming “a snowman” to be whatever he wants proves fruitful.
Choice, Chance and the Snowman
By Denise Guerra
Article posted on 10/25/2011
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