This weekend, we celebrated my husband's forty-something birthday. Our house was filled with friends and LOTS of teenagers. And even though we didn't have party games, there was one activity I convinced our guests to play. It was a little bit psychic and a little bit inspiration. Here's how it went: I flipped through the pages of a little book of sayings and the person playing would say "STOP" and that would be their quote. They'd read it aloud and comments would fly. Each person in that room indulged me until everyone had their own personal anecdote to contemplate.
There were some really good ones. Quotes from Shakespeare and St. Francis. Obscure fables and familiar lessons. But this one in particular got the conversation going:
"Do what you love, even if it means you're broke."
In a room full of emerging young adults, the thoughts on this ran the gamut. Yes, money isn't everything, but the reality is that not every career choice can financially support you, no matter how much you love your job. Then what? So the parents sat around wondering how we help them figure out who they want to be and what they want to do? How do we make them understand that today's decisions will impact their future choices? How do we impart a wisdom that only comes with experience on a generation who just needs more experience? The answer is, we really can't.
Because what we value is different than what they value. In fact, if we're honest and rewind the clock twenty or so years, we'll likely find that what we value today is very different than what was important to us when we were young and free and our future stretched out in front of us with perfect timing and ideal outcomes awaiting. And we had to take the path, rocky and bumpy as it may have been, to get here. They must do the same.
It starts with activities as mundane as laundry and chores, and exposure to service projects giving them a glimpse of the great joy derived from helping others. When they're old enough, they need to get a real job where someone other than mom and dad, tells them what to do and how to do it better. They need the chance to be accountable for their own money and sometimes, they have to feel the disappointment when they don't have enough for that thing they really want. All of these things, all of these life experiences will begin to weave in them a knowledge and a passion and a purpose that will drive them forward, hopefully, leading them to something they love, and something that can support them.
When you're young, being broke and passionate propels you to find your own path and figure things out. As an adult, sometimes being broke comes in a different shape, and it's good for our kids to see us working that through too. Growth, if done right, is a lifelong and life-giving endeavor and as parents, it's our responsibility to listen and guide, but even greater, is our job to fortify the launching pad so that each of them has a successful take off.
We can't guarantee, and we shouldn't, that the journey will always be sufficiently filled with money and passion and fulfillment, because it won't be. But we should assure them that the ups and downs, the highs and lows, have their own way of making the ride a sweet one.
"Do what you love, even if it means you're broke." Such a little saying with such a big meaning. What do you think?