I think Mr. Rogers gets a bad rap.
In many a discussion, this kind man has been used as scapegoat for people hating on “lazy millenials,” namely pinpointing his constant recitation of his uplifting opinion that we could be anything we want to be. This post admittedly isn’t a rejoinder against the idea that millenials are lazy, which will probably be a later post seeing as how a DESPISE watching so many of my friends grind in creative fields just for people to call us lazy, but then that’s the nature of generational discrimination (I’ve already caught myself and those close to me judging the generation below us for various things). No, this post is focusing directly on that mantra: that you can be anything you want to be.
Growing up, I can vouch that my generation heard this a LOT. I obviously can’t say anything for higher generations, but we heard it on TV and in movies. We heard it from parents, from teachers, from coaches, from counselors. We did exercises in early grades focused on dreaming big and deciding what we want to be in the future. We graduated to a reading from Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” This was the world we lived in: a world that constantly told us to lock in our dreams and do what it takes to achieve those.
I firmly believe this is true. I think people can reasonably achieve whatever they want if they are willing to put in the work required. Anything worth having is not gonna be easy. Everyone thins movie stars and famous musicians just walk in off the street, but they grind, they strive to achieve what they want. Many creative folks take risks and sacrifice their chances at normalcy in order to have the life they want. And I’m realistic enough to know that people in different stations or situations in life will have different experiences. There are silver spoons, sure. If your parents are rich, it is gonna be much easier to have a music career coughLanaDelReycough. But I still personally feel that putting in the work and believing in what you’re doing (i.e. being confident) can make a difference. I believe we have the ability to be anything we want to be.
But the hardest thing I’ve had to realize lately is that we can’t be everything we want to be.
At some point in your life there will be something in your life that you will never achieve. It may be a specific career choice, or something more trivial, like a trip or luxury experience. You will not achieve a goal. You will miss an opportunity.
This is a tough point for me, personally, and I’m sure many other people: I have WAY too many aspirations, and I need to realize that eventually I’m going to have to say “okay, this is more important to me than that, so I’ll place that into a indefinite realm of ‘not gonna happen, slick.'” The things I love most in the world are experiences. I love learning and knowing how things work, seeing new places, meeting new people. But I can’t meet everyone. Chances are I can’t visit every single location in the world. I have to satisfy myself with what I can physically achieve in my short human life, and that’s been really tough for me. It leaves me constantly questioning, looking at opportunities and wondering if it’s the right one. What if I miss out on something? What if I already have? I find myself constantly guessing, second guessing, triple guessing and so on. A major source of anxiety is the thought that I have to be so careful in where I lay the stepping stones that eventually I’m gonna run out of time to place them.
Honestly, comfort comes from a surprising place. Back in the 80s/90s the slogan for the US Army was “be all you can be.” As a kid, I admittedly use to muse on how this seemed like a shockingly limiting view. I saw it as “Hey, if that’s all you got, at least you’re at max capacity.” But in my current adult situation, this saying means something different. Being all I can be means reaching 100% capacity. Achieving all I can in life and never leaving blank wasted moments. Powering toward the future I want and grabbing it down to earth with both hands. When I’m done with that, moving on to the next thing with fervor and confidence, muscling one lofty dream after another down to reality and standing tall over my accomplishments. Truly being anything I want to be, and understanding that being everything is secondary to being happy and successful.
Keep grinding, folks.