“I would rather be ashes than dust. I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” – Jack London
The quote’s a little much – I almost stopped reading half way through – but that last line really stuck out to me. “I shall use my time.” So simply powerful.
I ran into a girl that I became friends with the semester before going abroad. Her name is Brooke and she’s just one of those people who has perspective. She’s funny, she’s interesting, she doesn’t care what you think about her and she’s down to earth. She knows who she is, or at least seems like she does. She was abroad in Spain while I was in Sydney and I hadn’t seen her until I did by chance today.
We caught up – how was your semester, how’s senior year going – jobs, school, friends, fall break. We’re supposed to be seniors these days so I asked the natural question – are you applying to any jobs? grad schools? any idea about your next step? Her answer rocked. I think it was the best one I’ve heard so far, and as you can imagine I’ve heard plenty over the last couple of months.
She told me that she and her roommate were going to pick up and go out west, sleep in her car and hop around national parks. They’ll find one near a touristy town they like, settle down, start bar tending or something along those lines, and save up until she has enough to move to Barcelona. There, she hopes to pick up some odd jobs that will get her by until she can become fluent and start writing. She knows it’s a pretty idealistic plan. Definitely unconventional. But she was so comfortable with it. “I’m just excited about life,” she said.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s f*cking awesome. Hell yes! Go take on the world. Be young, be free! That’s what you’re supposed to do. It was so refreshing to hear her say that to me with confidence and a sense of responsibility because it’s easy to force yourself to feel that because you graduated from Carolina and paid for your 4 years here, you have to use your degree. You have to commit yourself to the work force and if you don’t, you sure as hell need to have aspirations regarding what you’d like to accomplish after TFA or the Peace Corps or teaching English in Nepal. Maybe get your MBA, go back to school, seek a career in the path you’ve already strageically completed 4 internships for. Even when you don’t really have or want a plan, it feels like you’ve planned for that.
Brooke told me she just doesn’t see the point in getting a 9-5 she doesn’t care about. I vehemently agreed – I related by talking about how sometimes while working in some of the jobs I’ve held I feel like I’m quite literally wasting my time (not that all the places I’ve worked haven’t been worthy and awesome institutions). I didn’t feel like I was making a true difference, I wasn’t passionate, I was just getting through my day away to get another line on my resume or another few dollars in my bank account so that I could travel, or do something I really wanted to be doing. It made me think of that quote. All Brooke wants is really just to use her time.
My parents have always hoped that my sister and I find jobs we love. “You’ll never work a day in your life if you find a job you love. You’ll always find a way to wake up happy,” Lyd and Lou tell me. I can hear them. I’m still not quite sure what that will be yet but I have caught myself getting caught up in all that planning while maybe losing sight of what it would mean to me to really use my time. I’ve been preparing for the LSAT and working on securing an internship that could hopefully lead to, or at least prepare me for, a job in my year or two off before law school. There’s a part of me that decided I want to be in the northeast after college and that has abandoned my alternative plan of returning to Aus to work at Backpackers and then travel Asia.
It’s easy to fall back into convention when it’s what you’re surrounded by. Convention’s not a bad thing but I’m not sure if it is what I want for myself over the next year or two, or even for the rest of my life. I’m just so grateful I ran into Brooke today because I was starting to lose sight of the alternatives. People are cool and the best, most exciting thing about life is that there’s a million and one paths you can take that will let you live as the superb meteor Jack London talks about. And why, if you can help it, waste your time being anything but?