Lunch Boxes for 20 Somethings

In elementary school is was all about who had the shiniest pens or the fanciest lunchbox. Then it was who was dating who (that is to say, the Grade 7 equivalent of dating). Then it was about grades. Now, for me, it’s about career opportunities. I understand that later it becomes about salary and after that it probably becomes who has the fanciest wheelchair.

From as early as I can remember there has been this competition. It isn’t necessary that we accept the competition. We can choose not to compete. I certainly did, but sometimes thoughts and feelings are harder to control and all of a sudden we do look at the fancier lunchbox and something inside us twists. Suddenly something is wrong.

What is wrong? Is what we have inadequate? Do we need something better? I don’t think we do, but somehow there’s still a feeling that we’ve fallen behind.

And that’s where I am. Many of my peers from university have landed miraculous opportunities and I feel fallen behind. However, I’m also on an equal footing with a lot of my peers and I’m ahead of a few. If this were simply a matter of comparison, I should be able to look at those I’m ahead of, laugh at them, and feel better about myself. Fortunately (but perhaps inconveniently) this is not the case.

Another development is that I don’t feel envious of the opportunities themselves. A lot of the more successful members of my graduating class are doing things that I would not be happy in. And that gets to the root of the issue.

Fulfillment. We all think something different will fulfill us. Lunchboxes, relationships, money – these are all means to an end: the Summum Bonum of happiness. The difference between me and my peers is that I don’t know what will give me that happiness. I don’t pursue anything passionately because I don’t know what to be passionate for.

I know there’s a bright side to this, I just don’t know what it is yet.

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“When I grow up…”

All of us were asked at some point “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I struggled with this question for a long time and I still do.

In highschool I watched a video by youtuber Christopher Bingham in which he reflected on his various school experiences and rated them. At the very end he asks “Now that it’s over… what do I do?” All throughout university I had this question hanging over my head. I knew it was coming and now I have to ask myself that question for real.

In elementary school I wanted to be a clown. I now cringe at the thought as I am terrified of clowns, but I loved the idea of making people laugh – making people happy. I don’t remember what made me change my mind, but I’m glad I did.

The next thing I wanted to be was an actor. When I discovered that I could make my classmates laugh (usually by borrowing Monty Python styles) I fell in love with performance. I learned from working at summer camp that I could also make my coworkers and campers laugh, but something was wrong. I was making people laugh but I was doing it by pretending to be things I wasn’t. I felt like I was losing myself so I put acting aside for a while.

I wanted to be a chef for a while. I do love cooking. I love the idea of providing for people and I love that what you make materially becomes part of your audience. I think that’s pretty cool. What I don’t think is cool is the snobbery, the perfectionism, the rush, and the stress of working in kitchens. That ruined being a chef for me.

At the end of highschool I wanted to be a youth pastor. Youth pastors and other church leaders had a deep impact on my life. They were invaluable in a time that I was rather depressed. But it occurred to me later in university that I didn’t actually like the idea of leading youth. I liked the idea of wanting a job that people approved of. I liked that the people I admired were supportive of my plan.

So I dropped out of the youth ministry stream of my university and majored in theatre and english. Which I loved! I love reading texts, discerning their meaning, and embodying them on stage for the consideration of others. I also love cooking, making people laugh, and helping people’s faith. I love writing, I love acting, and I love singing. I loved studying and practicing all of these things.

“But now that it’s over… what do I do?”

What do I pursue as a career? One of these things or something else? Once I know what I want to do, how do I do it? What am I actually good at? What do I want to do when I grow up? As the end of university drew closer, I began asking the adults in life how they “figured it out.” Turns out that they didn’t. Turns out they’re still doing guesswork.

I guess that means I’m on the right track.

Topography of Conversation (Or “Why Essays are Horrible”)

I have been trying for the past three months to write a post that discusses how we handle controversy. I have been part or been audience to a lot of arguments (mostly civil) over the course of my life and I would love to speak from my experience to some common faults that people make both when responding to other opinions and in interpreting their own. Moreover, I’d love to present that discussion objectively.

The problem is that every time I sit down to write about handling controversy, it ends up turning into a rant on my own convictions.

I’ve entitled my thoughts “A topography of controversy.” Professors in school often pushed me to “say something” in essays. They introduced me to a subject and demanded a defensible conviction as soon as possible. I think this is the opposite of what we should do. We should spend as much time as possible mapping out the discussion with the clarity that comes with being non-partisan. Then we can know what is true and defend it.

We need to survey the land before we try to build something on it. Unfortunately we grow up with the pressure to believe something as quickly as possible so we often build shaky convictions on unsure foundations. So what do we do once we’ve made this mistake?

Well, that’s easy. Just try. Just think. Be humble and be willing to change some convictions. Retrace your steps and start again from square one. Reset. That’s easy. The problem is: what do we do with others?

Well, that’s also easy. Absolutely nothing. We can argue and we can defend our positions thoughtfully, but at the end of the day if a person doesn’t want to think, they can’t be made to.

So I will not be able to fulfill my wish to objectively discuss land-surveying strategies in the near future. But I can suggest this: review your beliefs. Every once in a while, retrace your steps and go back to the beginning. “Why do I want to believe this?” “What invested interested to I have?” “Why would I want to believe or not believe this?” Watch how people discuss the issues that concern you and you might be surprised.

And don’t disagree with me cuz I’m right about everything.

Home is Not Where The Heart Is

I recently moved and I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of ‘home’.

As our lives change, we call lots of different places home. There are places we’ve never heard of that we might come to call home later on. There are places we used to call home that are now strange to us. Over the summer I moved back in with my parents and despite the familiarity of my childhood bedroom, I had the sense that I was supposed to be somewhere else.

During university, my school campus felt like home. Now I’m living in a basement apartment in the same city and it’s beginning to feel like home. Home moves around. It’s not an actual place but an attribute that we give. And the ability to make that attribution follows us wherever we go.

I guess home is really something that we carry around inside us and eventually project outside when we’re ready. Then when we move we take it with us. It does tend to drag a bit behind, though.

Now I’ll fight the temptation to end this update with a cheesy take on “home is where the heart is.” I don’t think that’s true. Home isn’t where the heart is, it’s something about the heart itself. But let me contrast this thought with another. There’s also a sense in which everywhere I go I feel like I’m not home. Christians are supposed to live “in the world, but not of it” with a sense that everything in this life is a prelude to something coming. A car is not a home but something that gets you home. This life is sort of a vehicle.

So I am both finding myself perpetually at home in one sense and perpetually in transit in another sense. On the one hand, that sounds like a contradiction. On the other hand, I might say that I like where I am and I like where I’m going.