The Most Unusual & Influential Pep Talk of my Life

If I had to give someone a pep talk, it would probably consist of sub par jokes because I’m not a very motivational person. Do you want me to convince you to go trick or treating even though you might be too old? I’m not going to tell you that age is just a number, I’m going to ask you why the skeleton didn’t go trick or treating (it’s because he had no-BODY to go with.) Do you want an extra push to eat healthier? I’m not going to rant about heart disease, I’m going to tell you this: knock knock / who’s there / beet /  beet who? / I’ll beet you up if you ever make me feel bad for eating junk food ever again. Or, maybe you need a reason to go to bed earlier so that you don’t feel as horrible in the morning. Oh, you want to get eight hours of sleep? Have fun with your REM while I’m rem…iniscing on my day while looking at doggy pictures.

Teachers aren’t supposed to suck at pep talks, though. They can suck at grading things on time, respecting students, and actual teaching, but they have to own the frickle frack out of those pre-test pep talks they give us. The fall semester of my senior year came to a close mid-January with final exams. Before the test, my teacher didn’t own his pre test pep talk. He had one job!!! Instead, he discussed how only very borderline grades could be influences by one’s score on the final. He said that he’d round grades up based on the effort a student put in throughout the semester. He also said something close to, “If I don’t round your grade, it doesn’t mean I dislike you. You’re probably still a good person. Most of you are – if these grades were based on morals and character, there’d be a lot more A’s.” Somehow, this pre-test conversation moved into something deeper than just A,B,C,D or F.

The conversation changed. I don’t remember his exact words, but they were close to this: “Some good people don’t get As in this class. Some get them here and in other classes. Good grades, more specifically in college, can open up job opportunities with high salaries. Often, I’ve seen people end up with jobs that pay close to 100,000 dollars a year. But at some point – they might realize that the stress of their career is an obstacle to their happiness.”

This speech couldn’t have been longer than three minutes – but I’ve spent the last ten months fixated on it. At that time, I was months away from finishing high school and seriously considering what I want to do as a career. If you had asked me about my future at that time, I probably would’ve said being a psychologist was a strong possibility.

What if you had asked me why? Likely, I would have said that I like the idea of having a steady income and helping people. Yeah, psychology interests me – and so does money. But, I don’t think I’d do a good job of helping those who cannot help themselves. I love helping and I love people. I have patience, desire, and communication skills – but not enough to be psychologist. Luckily, I figured that out relatively quickly.

It’s definitely possible to have a passion for a career with a high salary. Do you want to become a doctor? Do you really want to become a doctor? Great! You’ll have life satisfaction and heaps of money and probably a lot of stress and loans from med school but it’ll be okay because it’s what you want to do.

But I’m sure a solid fraction of us wouldn’t want to go through all of those years of school. Maybe, you would rather invest in a small home and pay off small loans and it’ll be great because it’s what you want to do.

No matter how satisfied you are with your life, someone, somewhere, could find something to criticize about it. If there’s anything I’ve realized from listening to adults, it’s that everyone has the potential to become a “don’t end up like that” story.

You know, the ones that go like this:

• “He became a neurologist to fulfill his parents wishes and finally realized that he satisfied them more than himself. Don’t end up like that”

•“She chose to pursue journalism while her sister became a dentist. Now, one fixes teeth and inviting everyone over to her mansion while the other writes and looks for furniture small enough for her compact living room. Don’t end up like  that.”

•“Her parents would only pay for her college education if she did what they wanted. So, she put herself through college to get a degree of her choice. Now, her dreams are as big as her loans. Don’t end up like that.”

•“I know people who earned around $100,000 but found themselves too stressed to enjoy life the way they should have been. Write your ID number and name on both your scantron and the final exam.”

Nobody is immune to becoming a “don’t end up like that” story. Meaning that while you tell others the story of how someone screwed up his or her life – someone else could be telling a story like that about you. Other people can say what they want about your life, but you’re the one that’s living it. What matters is that you aren’t telling people the precautionary tale of “don’t end up like me.” It’s the same thing coming from a 1st person point of view rather than a 3rd.

People that tell “don’t end up like me” stories have a personal dissatisfaction with their lives. I’m no expert, but I’m guessing that these type of stories form when people fixate on satisfying something other than themselves. Maybe they wanted to make their parents happy. Or, maybe they wanted money.

If you have parents that want nothing more than for you to walk down a career path that they’ve chosen, and you choose to grant their wishes rather than yours, consider this. They won’t wake up every morning knowing life wouldn’t be so painful if they had just made mom and dad angry. They won’t risk the possibility getting to work every day and thinking, “I hate this. And I’m going to be doing this for decades – not for just several years like college (and maybe graduate school.) I’m stuck.”  They don’t have a significant chance of falling asleep every night with the crippling fear that they’ll never be happy. That’ll be you.  You’re the most important person to consider when making huge life decisions because they’ll affect you more than anyone else.

People make fun of the “money can’t buy happiness” cliché a lot. There’s even a popular picture on the internet with the quote “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to shop” paired with a picture of a girl holding multiple shopping bags.  People buy what they want, and that makes them happy. It’s so simple!!! No, it’s not. Happiness is a state of mind, not an economic status. The internet isn’t very simplistically truthful, either. I once saw a picture of the pink custard from the children’s show Teletubbies captioned, “This is what goes into McDonald’s chicken nuggets.” Just like life, the internet is hard to understand. I’m putting that into my next pep talk.

You have a solid chance of ending up miserable no matter what. You also have a solid chance of ending up happy no matter what. You should at least try to be happy – you owe yourself that much. Everything comes with a possibility of failure, but not everything comes with a possibility of happiness.

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