Monday, July 13, 2009

Birthday Advice from Michelle Zink!

Anyone who knows me knows that I talk to teenagers a lot. A LOT.

And I’ve heard a lot of crazy, scary, insightful, horrifying things in all my conversations with them. Want to know the worst? The scariest? The most shocking?

Wait for it…

“I want to be an accountant.”

Now before all the accountant’s out there get their panties in a twist, let me explain. I don’t have anything against accounting. I mean, I’m not a big fan of math or anything. In fact, I think I got a D in Geometry (though to salvage some of my mathematical reputation, I’ll add that I got an A in Algebra). I was always more of an English/History person. But I think if you love math and you want to be an accountant, you should go for it.

I mean, if math is the thing that keeps you up nights – if you lay in bed thinking, “I can hardly WAIT to get up and work on my math homework tomorrow – than more power to you!

I just don’t think that’s the case for MOST teenagers. And I’ll admit that I could be wrong.

But what I’ve found in talking to so many teenagers is that’s not usually the case. After a little conversation, it usually comes out that the teen’s parents think Accounting would be a good idea. That because the teenager gets good grades in math and maybe doesn’t want to poke his/her eyes out with toothpicks every time they go to math class, Accounting would be a great line of work. And then I hear the second worse thing a teenager could ever tell me.

Ready? Here goes…

“Accountants make good money and they usually have benefits.”

And I’m like, “Wha?” Not because good money and benefits are something to eschew, but because I don’t remember thinking about things like medical benefits when I was fourteen.

Plus, as the mother of four children (three of them teenagers) I just don’t understand why any parent would want their child - at the ripe old age of fourteen or so – to choose their life path based on something like a steady paycheck and medical benefits. When did it become more important that our children have the ability to buy a house and drive a $50,000 car than that they feel passion, joy, and fulfillment in the way they choose to spend their days? When did it become more important that our children have impressive-sounding jobs than that they contribute something they find meaningful to the world?

And listen, I’ve struggled plenty in life. I’ve had moments when I didn’t know what was next for me, when I didn’t have medical care (still don’t), when I didn’t even know how I was going to buy groceries. In fact, I was very, very close to losing my house when I sold Prophecy of the Sisters to Little Brown in 2007.

But here’s the thing; my life has unfolded not like a well-crafted business plan but like an enchanting and magical story. I have not always known what was around the corner. I have not always been sure I was headed in the right direction. Sometimes I made bad decisions. Took wrong turns. Made mistakes. Big ones.

In the end, though, I wouldn’t trade it. Not one sad, thrilling, frightening, uncertain, joyful moment. For me, all of the magic is in not knowing. In having the future wide open in front of me the way it still is even today. Or at the very least, in knowing that the paths I choose are MINE. All mine. That I’m not living anyone’s life but my own.

So this month, I salute Devyn Burton and the other young people like him. Young people who dare to follow their hearts – to pursue their passion even in the face of uncertainty, instability, and fear. To Devyn and those like him I want to tell you that YOU are contributing something – not to the Gross National Product but to the soul of the world and the people who occupy it.

And you contribute something to me, too, by reminding me to dare to dream each and every day. To savor the moments when I don’t know what’s next.

To hang on and enjoy the ride.

Happy Birthday Month, Devyn!



Michelle Zink said...

Hey, you!

Only two more days until your birthdayyyyyy!

shelburns said...

Love, love, love Michelle's thoughts! I always wanted to teach, not for the money, but b/c it was my passion. My father wanted me to be a vet, for the $$. I'm all about going for your dreams!

Genevieve said...

Nice advice! Funny, because I know that when I was 12 and older, kids were talking about medical benefits and whatnot. It's interesting how the culture changes over the years. And don't worry, I'll always try to follow my dreams!

: )