I love my job. As I write this, I am several thousand feet in the air, sitting in first class on a jet, coming home from some speaking programs in New York. I’m in first class because Kim and I did so much traveling last year, we got bumped up to the next level of our airline’s rewards program, so every once in a while, our tickets get upgraded and we get to fly “in style.”
Here’s the part I love. Not to be stereotypical, but most of the people sitting around me are the, um, “stuffy” types. The business suits checking their Blackberrys and poring over last quarter’s numbers. It’s hard to say, but they don’t seem particularly happy. Meanwhile, I pull out my Powerbook to do a little work of my own. In the middle of updating the online archive of Kim & Jason comic strips, I can’t help but smile. I wonder what other people would be thinking if they took a glance at my computer screen, populated by a continuous rotation of silly drawings of cartoon characters.
This is my work. Sometimes I have to pinch myself at the ridiculousness of it all.
It’s nice to have these moments of Zen, because it helps keep me sane when the frustrating aspects of my job test my patience. Being on the road is tiring. Air travel can eat you alive if you let it. (I’ve yet to figure out how standing, sitting, and waiting can be so tiring.) Impossibly early mornings, delayed flights, and stupid people can make me wonder what the heck I’m doing with my life.
But the good moments help me remember why I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
Mine is a career that even I couldn’t imagine back when I was in high school and college. Somehow, I have a job that brings together every single one of my talents into one unified whole, even though individually, they don’t seem particularly related. But here’s the kicker: none of it would be real if not for the willingness to dream big and take a leap.
During last night’s program, we were talking about dreaming big. I discussed the sad reality that often includes countless well-intentioned parents and teachers discouraging the dreams of a young person, simply because they perceive the dream to be “too difficult,” “impossible,” or “unrealistic.” What a shame. I shared a quote by John Andrew Holmes, who said, “Never tell a young person that something cannot be done. God may have been waiting centuries for somebody ignorant enough of the impossible to do that thing.”
After the presentation, a woman came up to me, wanting to share a story. She told me about her son, who had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. School was a challenge. He was a bright boy, but every single report card and parent-teacher conference included the same refrain: “Tim is falling behind. He is simply unable to focus.”
The mother boasted proudly, “Want to guess what he’s doing now? He’s a successful photographer in New York City.”
Pretty good for someone who had trouble focusing.
When I was washing cars and running errands for a car dealership as a teenager, it was sometimes hard to imagine that I’d ever be flying first class on an airplane, manipulating cartoons on a cool laptop. But those long, sweaty days — when the clock seemed to only tick backwards — strengthened my resolve to make a living doing what I loved. I didn’t know exactly what that would look like, but I used my ample supply of time to dream up the possibilities.
Now mind you, my parents were a bit freaked out when I proclaimed that I wanted to be an artist. They had only heard of the “starving” kind. But they reached out to my high school art teacher and invited her over for dinner. They asked lots of questions.
“Is he any good?”
“What are his options?”
“What schools would you recommend?”
My art teacher eased their fears (thanks Mrs. Garrett!) and helped guide us on a wise path suited to my personality and ambitions. It has been a bumpy road, but my parents have always supported and believed in me. Sometimes, amidst the long sleepless nights and tearful laments of doubt and sacrifice, their steadfast belief in me has been my single reason for not throwing in the towel.
Sometimes dreams seem improbable, even impossible. The best ones always are. Our role as adults is to encourage our young dreamers. Rather than poking holes in their aspirations, we should offer our experience to point them in the direction that will help them find the tools they need to make their dreams come true.
In the meantime, we need to allow some of that youthful ambition to rub off on us. Big dreams are not just for the young, but they are exclusive to the young at heart.
You never know how high into the clouds they will take you.