Urgent Life

I wrote and rewrote the first few paragraphs of this story three or four times because I kept worrying about being politically correct. I worried over leaving someone out of the matrix that went along with the story.

I kept writing, crossing out, re-writing, not wanting to come on too strong, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, but every time I would re-read my PC version I’d found I’d buried the lead. So let me get this out of the way to be sure it’s being said.

Time to Wake Up

This is a message, or a wake-up call to high school kids and college students just getting started; actually anyone between the ages of, say, 16–25.

I’m gonna be real blunt here. I know you guys think you have all the time in the world to make decisions and find your place in life but the truth is this: If you aren’t beginning to define yourself and your path by about 25 years old, it’s highly likely you’re going to struggle for the majority of your life…

Struggle with finances, marriage, relationships, home ownership, debt, cars and anything else you might like to add; ‘cuz if you haven’t figured this out yet brothers and sisters, they’re all connected. I don’t think it was always this way — this urgent — but it is my observation that it’s getting more and more this way every day.

The “definition by 25″ that I speak of should be followed up by a pretty clear idea of a life path by age 30. You need to know where you are going if you ever want to get there, right?

I know some of you, parents and children alike, are reading this right now and shaking your heads. In your mind you’re thinking of certain people who defied the odds, started getting on track late and turned out fine. Those are exceptions to this rule. So if I may be so bold… you’re wrong. Things are different now and the likelihood of turning out incapable and unproductive is much higher than it used to be.

The glut of high-paying factory jobs that people without some sort of special talent could fall back on are long gone. Our country has become host to much more service industry and much of the labor industry is farmed out overseas, or if it has remained local, it is seasonal or part time. Yet I don’t see the Gen-Xers looking too worried about this.

You know the one thing I seem to find that really differs between my generation and the next is the lack of any “urgency” in the agenda. From the tattooed mono-syllabic fast food kid to the multi-earring discount store cart pusher, no one seems to be in any hurry anymore.

It’s a far cry from the keep-the-customer-happy “Have it Your Way” hustle that I recall from my first few years among the ranks of the employed.

Now if you talk with these people and ask why they’re so laid back they shrug and kind of laugh at you, responding with that hoarse kind of droopy eyed “stoner” look and say, “Hey… whatever.”

Well guys, I gotta tell you, indeed, as you indicate, whatever will be will be but the “will be” has a vast carnival about it and if you don’t begin to save yourself a seat somewhere on one of those rides you’re gonna wake up one day and find that the circus left town while you were napping between shows.

Now is the Best Time

I remember when I was finishing high school there was this group of my peers that were deliberately going to delay college or trade school for a year while they backpacked through Europe. Certainly a romantic notion and perhaps, for some, a learning experience, but I recall thinking, even back then, this is just a way to put off the responsibility of growing up.

You ever notice that you and your work mates are just as excited about work getting cancelled on a “snow day” as you were when you were kids and school got cancelled? We’re all pretty much formed by about age six, folks, and we don’t change that much. The backpackers wanted another year off before life got too serious.

What was that putting off? Well for one, it put off decisions about where they were headed. Many came back from Europe and had lost a lot of momentum and never followed up and made the commitment to school or a trade or anything.

I caught up with some of them at my five-year high-school reunion and more than one asked me if the place I was working at was hiring. A few of the same ones asked me the same question at the ten-year reunion.

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