I've been thinking a lot about this popular colloquialism. Particularly in the context of living in an increasingly individualized society. We routinely offer this advice to our youth and children in a well meaning effort to embolden their confidence in themselves, their intuition, and their decision making process. What we imply here is that there are many competing forces that will try to influence or control us and that we should strive to come back to an authentic source, what we deem here as the self.
I am not one to easily find fault in well meaning and long standing advice. But I can't ignore this growing conviction I have about what is wrong with this particular piece of advice.
The relationship between the reader and the writer is so interesting. As a writer, you can never be sure how your work will be interpreted and you never know when something you write is going to profoundly impact someone's life.
As parents, we are the ultimate role models for our children. Who we choose to pattern our lives after is important to consider, because that decision will directly extend into who our children become, whether we are intentional about that or not.
"I am just not a writer." OH the number of times I've heard these words. Usually following someone reading something that I have written. Flattering as it may be, I can't in good conscious let it go to my head. Because the truth is, writing is a skill, just like anything else. It's true, there may be some element of nature competing with nurture, but that doesn't put good writing out of anyone's reach.
But it is really easy to be discouraged about writing, even for a writer! Here's why:
Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. Though, to be fair, it isn't usually an intentional lie. We really tend to believe that we somehow preserve our talents by deferring their use to the right "time."
But, here's a song lyric that I think will put that theory into perspective:
"Don't wait for your time, baby, time isn't waiting for you."
I was in college the first time I was ever exposed to the warning signs of a codependent relationship.
I had already graduated by the time anyone was talking about professional leadership development.
I majored in Psychology which led me to a fascinating wealth of information concerning human growth, development, and interpersonal relationships. But I faced a pervasive belief that a Bachelor's in Psychology is worthless.
I cannot tell you how many young professionals I have encountered, when I disclose I majored in Psychology and minored in Studio Art, they quizzically ask, "What do those two have to do with each other?"
But the real question is, what does psychology NOT have to do with? To me, it is connected to literally every other aspect of life.
Seriously, who does not love Tom Hanks?
What makes him so lovable and relatable? It could be his humor, his vulnerability, the common theme of the roles he plays having problematic egos that are still somehow incredibly endearing.
The following quote from him has always resonated with me, especially as it comes from someone so widely loved,
In college, my first studio art class was Foundations of Art, a very basic and very low stress learning atmosphere. To say I was excited was an understatement. Here I was in real deal art school, with my sharpened colored pencils and orderly watercolor trays and brushes. For our very first assignment, our professor asked us to fill a blank page with designs using only a black, permanent marker. Simple enough, right?
That's when it happened: pure and complete paralysis. What do I draw? How do I draw it? With a marker? A permanent marker? Unable to erased? To exist in time and space forever?
Inspired by this quote I decided to curate my own list of children's books that may superficially seem like light hearted, entertaining stories, but when held up in a different light, actually contain profound truths about our world and our lives that we grapple with on a daily basis as adults.
The unique capacity of children to understand concepts far beyond their years is something I think we should take note of and try to emulate as adults, lest we become too restrictive in our thoughts and self discoveries and deny the inherent wisdom we've all had since we were children.
I know what you're thinking.
Right out of the gate, a major writing faux pas - quoting Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." Could there be a more clichéd, overused, and comprehensively mastered statement in all the English language?
But just wait.
Frost message contains more than what you may have uncovered in Poetry Analysis class and the message is anything but trite. He is speaking more subtly to a specific audience. In this instance, "the one [road] less traveled by" does not mean to take the road fewer choose, but to see the path no one else sees, to hear a call no one else hears, and to pursue it.
These days, we have access to a multitude of problem solving resources. When we have a problem, we could come up with limitless combinations of solutions. But, either to curb our overwhelm of information or by the limits of our own perspective, our awareness is sometimes blind to the true extent of the options available to us. I tend to blame it on a long-standing system of standardized education in which there is "only one best answer."