I had this thought while walking outside with the dog: what would I say if I was asked to give a commencement address? Of course, it’s a silly proposition. I’m certainly not on anyone’s list for such a thing. That said, something popped into my mind. I thought I’d sketch it out here.
You have been lied to. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but someone has to rip off the band-aid. To let you in on a little truth. Without any further delay, here it is: you cannot be whatever you want to be. Take a moment, and let that sink in.
I’ll say it one more time, just for clarity’s sake. You. Cannot. Be. Whatever. You. Want. To. Be.
[hold for silence]
There are lots of reasons for this, but I’m not here to get into that. I’m simply here to tear down the lie, and to reveal the truth behind it. Because, while this might seem like bad news, it’s not. In fact, it’s great news. It’s maybe the best news there is. Why? Because knowing this allows you to begin to sift through all of the cruft and detritus floating around your mind and heart and sort out what is yours to be.
We get fed a lot of things over the course of our lives, some of which we end up believing is ours. Much of it — most of it? — isn’t. It belongs to someone else. This can be fine, and we can live a fine life by swimming along the grooves left for us by others. But what we can’t do in the midst of that is the most fundamental thing. It’s the thing that comes to us as a gift when we see it on the other side of the truth that I just laid out.
I’ll say it once more: you cannot be whatever you want to be.
The gift on the other side of that is this: all you can be is…get ready for it…you. Fully you.
The trick is the want part. That lies in the stories that our culture tells. It lies in the things that our friends and families, our teachers, and our marketers have been telling us our entire lives. That want part tells us that we are striving toward something. Let go of it, and the path will open up.
Now, this is about where I get hung up. There’s something in this tale that feels right. But there’s something else that doesn’t. Namely, it doesn’t take into account the systemic oppression that many folks live with. Is this, at the end of the day, just a veiled form of white supremacy? I think there’s a way to say what I’m trying to get at that breaks past white supremacy, but maybe not. Anyway. This is what came to me. Outside. With the dog. Just gonna leave it here.