on drift

ok. this might be the last post inspired by gretchen rubin’s interview on design matters.

i’ve noticed (as have many others) that many americans move through life in a strange state of conscious unconsciousness. this shows up in many ways, but here’s just one example. (middle class) american children are often raised to:

  1. do well in high school,
  2. go to college,
  3. find high-paying work,
  4. find a partner,
  5. get married,
  6. by a house,
  7. have 1-2 kids,
  8. retire,
  9. die.

people make conscious decisions along this prescribed pathway. sometimes they even stop to think really critically about the choices. but they generally don’t stop to question the entire pathway.

sometimes it looks like being a doctor because that’s what your parents did. or going to law school because you like arguing and writing. maybe you did a ton of research about which medical school to attend, but never stopping to ask, “why do i really want to be a doctor? do i even want to be a doctor?” this lack of radical (as in looking at the roots) questioning is what gretchen calls drift and i have called societal inertia.

gretchen’s interview added a point i’ve never really thought about but is so accurate. the thing about drift is that it’s not actually that easy. in fact, drifting through life might actually make it harder. for example, i can’t tell you how many medical and law students i’ve met who actually don’t want to be doctors or lawyers. i also can’t tell you how many people i know who attend college for a specific subject and never work in that field (there are many other issues that contribute to that specific problem, but drift is definitely a fundamental one). drifting, despite it’s lack of mindfulness, doesn’t mean that the pathway is easy. unfortunately, people put in a lot of work to do things and get to places they don’t actually want to be.

a book I used to love (i think by christian pastor, rob bell) had a serious chunk all about how the momentum given to us by our parents finally runs out during or right after college and then people are like… wait wtf am i doing? so true. can’t even tell you how many people i have run into over my college years for whom that is the story. the worst part is it’s actually the story for many, many more, but some people haven’t actually realized that that’s their story yet. some are even in denial of it. =[

what i’m curious about is this: what if taking time to be intentional about life choices makes things easier? i have a strong hunch that finding out what you’re passionate about and doing that makes life go much more smoothly (and it’s also better for everyone else).