A Weekly Column
WELCOME TO THE
Julie was a superstar in college. But the first weeks at her first real job have been tough.
“I feel like such an idiot,” my young friend wailed as we chatted at the grocery store. “Nobody knows who I am. Nobody cares. And I still can’t remember where everything is.
“Last week we had a big staff meeting and I couldn’t find the large conference room,” she continued. “I went to the only conference room I knew of, but nobody was there. So I wandered around and finally asked some old guy where it was, and he laughed and told me to turn around. It was right behind me. I was totally humiliated – especially when they introduced the board of directors during the staff meeting, and that old guy turned out to be the chairman of the board.”
I know, I probably shouldn’t have done that under the circumstances. But I couldn’t help it. Her frustration was striking too many familiar chords that triggered fond – and not-so-fond – memories. Like the time a senior reporter at the first newspaper I worked for convinced me that the gruff, tough city editor secretly admired writers who had the gumption to argue with him about how he edited their stories.
Secret admiration, indeed. It was such an incredible secret even HE didn’t know about it. Talk about rejection. Talk about humiliation.
Talk about real life.
It’s amazing, isn’t it, how the sun rises the morning after we are absolutely sure our world is going to come crashing to an end? Hurts and frustrations come and go, but somehow most of us manage to survive. Sometimes we even benefit from the lessons learned through pain and embarrassment. None of which makes the suffering less insufferable. But it may help Julie and other newcomers to life’s ups and downs if we point out a few realities they can expect to confront on the bumpy road to . . . well, wherever it is they are going. For example:
1. Bad things happen. They just do. Nobody is going to make it out of here without first experiencing adversity – a little or, in some cases, a lot. Expect it. Then when it comes, deal with it – and move on. Good and bad is life’s ultimate tag team – you can’t really have one without the other. Eventually.
2. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That’s more than just a law of physics; it’s a law of life. There are consequences for every choice we make. Our ability to anticipate those consequences and our willingness to accept them will have a lot to do with our peace and happiness in this life – and forever.
3. There’s more to life than “fun.” Believe it or not, life isn’t really a game, no matter what Milton Bradley tells you. Some things are hard and boring, but we go ahead and do them anyway because . . . well, they need to be done. So it’s OK if every moment of your life isn’t fun and exciting. As far as I know, no one has ever actually died of boredom.
4. Working works when wishy-washy wishing won’t. I don’t remember where I read that, but it’s true. You can waste away your life sitting around the harbor waiting for your ship to come in. The fact is, there is no shortcut to success. It’s a simple, timeworn formula comprised of work, talent, work, faith, work, discipline – and more work.
5. People are more important than things. While it’s great to have a nice car, a powerful stereo or the very latest computer gadget, none of that means much if it has been acquired at the expense of the important people in your life. Broken things can always be repaired or replaced; with broken relationships, the damage can last a lifetime.
But then, you already knew that, didn’t you? That’s because you’ve probably experienced a good share of life’s realities first-hand. But to Julie and her generation, a lot of these concepts are revelations. Which means we still have a chance to give them the benefit of our experience. Otherwise, they’ll end up doing some of the same dumb things we did, and the world will have to wait for another generation to grow up.
And that may be the harshest reality of all.
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— © Joseph Walker
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