The other day I was reading yet another article detailing all of the ways in which we are, collectively, raising our children wrong. This one was about pushing children into achievement for achievement’s sake: in other words, encouraging children to collect one meaningless achievement after another all in the hopes of getting into a good college, rather then letting them simply follow their passions and see where that leads them.
I could go on at length about how naïve it is to think that you will get into a good college without some sort of “achievement” under your belt, but I’m going to ignore that part of the article and instead focus on what I see as the much more dangerous part. The part about encouraging children to follow their “passions.”
On the surface this sounds like great advice. “Follow your dreams.” “Do what you love.” The problem, however, is that children, using their unique ability to twist any advice we give them into something terrible, have taken that advice as “If you don’t actually have a dream, right at this very moment, then you might as well give up now.” They take “Do what you love” and twist it into, “If you don’t really love anything all that much, don’t do anything.” I’ve actually had them tell me, “I’m not really passionate about anything, so what’s the point of going to college? It’d just be a waste of money.” That’s when I tell them what I consider to be one of adulthood’s best kept secrets: some people don’t have a passion.
And that’s okay. Really, it’s better than okay. It’s normal. For every person who is up at the crack of dawn training for their next triathalon, or staying up all night in their parent’s basement inventing a new kind of prosthetic arm, there are a hundred—no, a thousand, a hundred thousand—who are content to go for a three mile jog a couple of times a week, or who only stay up all night to binge watch the last season of Game of Thrones. In other words, most people are normal.
You’d think that this would be obvious, but somehow the population that needs to hear this the most believes it the least. In other words, I have met an entire generation of children who think that because they haven’t discovered their “passion” by the time they are twelve, there is no point in pursuing anything beyond the bare minimum.
Maybe its our fault, as adults, for moaning so much about paying off our student loans. Maybe we spent too much time emphasizing how college should help you find a well-paying job, and too little emphasizing how it will also help you find a lifelong set of road trip buddies and fifty different recipes that only use ramen and condiments. Maybe we left out the part about how things are supposed to be fun.
I think, in its own way, that’s what the article was trying to say: that sometimes kids should be encouraged to try things just because those things might turn out to be fun, and not just because they will look good on a college application. Which is very true. However, it’s also true that most colleges aren’t going to be too impressed that you skipped the chance to perform community service in favor of trying every single flavor of ice cream at the local Baskin Robbins. Unless you can write a killer essay about it. And then you’re golden.
Well, except for the fact that your “freshman fifteen” will probably be more like a “freshman fifty,” and happen well before your freshman year. But who knows? Maybe then you can at least pretend that fitness is your new “passion.”