A guest post by Aaron Lipsey (Twitter: @wizeyoungman)
At one point or another during our childhood we've all been asked the same question:
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
A simple question, as during childhood we’re taught to believe that we can “be anything if we put our mind to it.” At the age of six or seven we list occupations such as doctor, astronaut, lawyer, dentist, or professional athlete. While all of those goals seem achievable at such a young age, most of our interests tend to change by the middle school years as we learn more about those professions, but more importantly about ourselves. Slowly, those “dream” occupations fall to the wayside.
As we grow older, we learn more though about the lifestyles of the people who have those dream occupations. Lawyers getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to argue? Sounds fun! Millions of fans buying your jersey and cheering your name from the stands and couches at home while you make millions of dollars to entertain them? Sounds like a dream come true! But again, as we get older, we learn the amount of work and dedication that it would take to get these dream jobs, and that dream starts to fade a little bit more as we embrace reality.
And before you know it you’re 20-something years old, and you need to make a decision:
What am I REALLY going to do with the rest of my life?
Before, those options were very limited due to people's expectations of you due to your gender, age, race, or any other defining factor. The kid from a low-income family was expected to pursue a manual labor career such as construction worker or mechanic. The shy, introvert with glasses was labeled a “nerd” and expected to fix computers, or be a professional gamer in his mother’s basement. A tall, strong, or fast black kid was expected to play some sport. But the truth of the matter is that regardless of gender, age, or race, we all have different interests and different strengths that determine the outcome of our lives.
We no longer have to play into other people's expectations of us, we can be whoever we want to be. People are always going to look at you and pass judgment for the rest of your life. The sooner you stop caring what people THINK they know about you, the sooner you’ll be happier with yourself.
The coolest thing you can be in life… is yourself.
Whatever your interests, don't shy away from pursuing them just because people think you shouldn’t be into whatever it is you like. Forget those people and their opinions of you! Find whatever it is that sets your soul on fire, and then pursue it with your utmost intensity and conviction.
So what if people expect the kid from a low income family to be a mechanic; that shouldn’t stop him from getting straight A’s and achieving his goal of becoming a brain surgeon because he was blessed with a powerful brain. So what if people expect the nerd to be a gamer; that shouldn’t stop him from pursuing his dream of playing basketball in college since he was blessed with a helluva jump shot.
YOU ARE NOT LIMITED BY ANYTHING!
You can still get straight A’s like a “nerd” and be the star quarterback that likes to go to rap concerts every chance he gets. You can be the really pretty, popular blonde cheerleader every guy wants and every girl wants to be like, but still love to ride quads and go mudding on the weekends. You can be whatever and whomever you want to be, just be true to yourself. Take me for example: I am a 25 year old, six-foot-three black man, covered in tattoos and guess what I do for a living? I work in the information technology field and I love every second of it! I literally fix computers all day. But in my free time I like to play basketball, go out to bars on weekends, listen to all different kinds of music, and have inappropriate conversations with my very diverse group of friends (shout out to BFAM). Not exactly what you would picture a “geek” being like, right? That is my whole point: Who you are from 7AM to 5PM (whether a student or employee) doesn’t have to define who you are 24/7.
It’s okay to be different.
It’s okay to go against the grain.
It’s okay to take a different path.
But what isn’t okay is not being true to yourself.
One of my favorite quotes is: “Find out what you are passionate about, then find a way to make money doing it.” Never let anyone paint you into a corner and stop you from being who you truly want to be. That includes family, friends, mentors, and anyone else whose opinion is important to you. You may think it’s cool to be the person you think people want you to be, but you’ll eventually notice how unhappy you are with yourself because you chose to follow someone else’s dreams for you rather than your own.
Genuine people know when you’re being genuine, and - believe it or not - would much rather you be who you truly are at heart than pretend to be someone you’re not.
You being you is what makes you… cool!