Sunday, July 05, 2009
Ideals Vs. Reality
No matter how hard you try, I’ll always be 30 years older than you. And, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in that time it’s that those older than you will assume they know more than you do, no matter what unique situation you find yourself in, or what newfangled technology is being used.
I could be the one to break the cycle and be less smug, but hey, after 30 years I think I’ve earned a turn at being smug with someone.
It’s good to have ideals that will push you to greater heights in all areas of life. Unfortunately, reality will probably be at odds with your ideals, constantly tempting you to aim lower. Therefore, you’ll find that the trick to maximizing your achievements is to delay your realization of reality as long as possible.
Here are a few examples:
The Ideal – You want to perform a task that puts your talents to work performing tasks that make your community a better place and you a better person.
Reality – Your boss has connections to make and budgets to meet, and will have you spend much of your time performing tasks helping him/her meet those goals, rather than the ones we listed above. You may think that your employer is consistently selling out your collective integrity by making you work on things of no – what do you call it? Oh, right – value, just to help his/her reputation, and you’re probably right.
You’re probably wrong, though, in thinking that you can escape this by going to a bigger, better place to work. The bosses at those places just have bigger connections to make and more complicated budgets to meet. You’re also probably wrong in thinking that, if you were the boss, you’d do any differently when faced with those budgets.
The Benefits of Denial – The longer you can go without learning this the more valuable you’ll be to your employer/co-workers, because you’ll actually try your best at every task ahead of you.
Stay in Denial Until … your mid-30s. Make it that long and you’ll be doing great. Better than me, anyway.
The Ideal – You want to study something that will enrich your mind and prepare you for your life’s work.
Reality – In order to get the degree you want from the university you want, you’ll probably have to go thousands of dollars in debt and lose a lot of sleep. At the end of those four … okay, four and a half years, you’ll look back and realize that only two, maybe three of the classes you took were really – how do you say? – valuable.
The Benefits of Denial – The longer you can go without learning this the higher your grades will probably be. Low GPAs on résumés are hard to explain, unless you’re a member of Skull & Bones.
Stay in Denial Until …at least your last semester. If you must go to graduate school you may need to find another means of avoiding acceptance of reality. Blunt force trauma has been known to work.
The Ideal – You will almost certainly get to know more wealthy, athletic or charismatic males who have no trouble attracting female attention. They may act as though they don’t know how fortunate they are, which will motivate you to believe you’d never fail to show appreciation if you were in that position.
Reality – One day you will be married, and if your wife is nice, you will eventually come to expect the good things she does for you. This will probably cause you to fail to respond in kind at times. No matter how nice your wife is, eventually you will be criticized for failing to reciprocate.
The Benefits of Denial – Those aware of this reality too early in life tend to desire neither marriage nor wives who are “nice.” This, in turn, lowers their chances of leaving offspring they care enough to write letters of advice to.
Stay in Denial Until … Denial? Denial of what?
The Ideal – Maybe you’ll get to experience all that life has to offer: seeing the world, meeting important people, and leaving behind a body of work that will be highly regarded by future generations in your field. Maybe you’ll be a modern-day Ernest Hemingway.
The Reality – For all his experiences, the pre-modern-day Hemingway apparently didn’t encounter whatever it was that prevents a person from doing their own lobotomy with a shotgun.
The Benefits of Denial – The longer you can go without realizing that everyone has regrets later in life, the more empowered you’ll feel to address the ones you have now. You may actually succeed with some of them.
Stay in Denial Until … your mid-60s. Make it that long and you’ll be doing great. Better than Hemingway, anyway.
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