I figured out what I wanted to do with my life before I was 20 years old. That is a far cry from Carl Daniels, the protagonist in my upcoming novel, Green Bay Outsiders, who has absolutely no clue what he wants to do when he graduates from college. By that point, he is 22. And the realization that he has to start making plans to find out what he wants to do is crucial if he wants to avoid falling into a miserable lifestyle set by everyone else’s expectations.
Not long after I discovered a love of writing during a creative writing course my senior year in high school, I knew that was something I would want to do in the future. But of course I was going to have to make countless choices in the following years – education, employment, travel, friendships, romance, adult responsibility – and for a while I drifted from one experience to another, experimenting, trying things out and ultimately returning to what I always loved.
This is how it all went down and what happened when I realized what I wanted to do with my life. (Too bad for Carl who doesn’t realize what he wants to do yet; he must decide if he needs to rip himself away from everything he already has in his life to discover something he considers more fulfilling.)
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Years ago, I read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. It was the historical account of Christopher McCandless, a young man who graduated to great promise from Emory University in the early 1990s only to abandon any semblance of identity (he literally burned all forms of identification) and left his home and family behind to hit the road on a cross-country trip. Chris ultimately ended up living out of an abandoned bus through a snowy Alaskan winter north of Denali National Park and, while incredibly resourceful, he ended up making one tactical mistake–he ate poisonous berries–and ended up perishing shortly before the spring thaw. His journey, both physically and psychologically, was introspective and meditative.
[Read more…] about The Lack of Rites of Passage into Adulthood in America
Years ago, I joined the Peace Corps, a U.S.-government-funded volunteer organization that sends willing Americans overseas to participate in grassroots projects with the citizens of countries around the world. Some volunteers do community development, others lead health or sustainable agriculture projects. I ended up teaching English as a foreign language in Sri Lanka. I was supposed to live and teach there for two years but the country was in the middle of a civil war at the time, and my assignment ended up being cut in half.
[Read more…] about My Year Teaching in Sri Lanka – And the Two Short Stories That Followed