The Boy Who Wondered What He Should Be
By Guest Writer, Pat Pfeifer
This is a story of a young boy who was looking for the purpose in his life. Often, adults would ask this young boy what he wants to be when he grows up. Early in his age he would answer as many young boys would answer – with things like a fireman, or a policeman, and even sometimes an astronaut who could fly in a space ship and go to outer space. However, in his early teen years he found that those things were no longer of interest to him.
A few days prior to his thirteen birthday, he was again asked that question and found that he did not have an answer. Each night since that birthday, he would lie in bed and begin to imagine himself doing different things and being different people. “I could be a doctor,” he thought, “or maybe a lawyer or professional basketball player.” “Maybe I’ll invent something and own my own business,” he pondered. The thoughts kept coming to him, but nothing seemed to resonate with his inner self. There was nothing that seemed to match the thing that he knew he wanted, yet could not uncover.
One day while he was in school, a parent came to talk to the class. This lady was a professional writer and had published many books. She spoke a bit about the process of writing, pointing out that she often would begin a book with absolutely no idea what the book would be about. Sometimes, she would sit down to write a book, and not know if it would be fiction or fact.
She continued to talk about something called writer’s block; when writers hit a wall and do not know what they should write about. The writer stalls, like a car that runs out of gasoline. The boy listened intently, as he felt that was where he was with the important decision that lie before him: a decision that he thought would affect the rest of his life. Never mind the fact that he put undue pressure on himself to make that decision.
The lady continued to talk about how she would begin a book. “Often times,” she said, “I go for a walk and see a bird playing in its nest, so I think about writing a book about a bird and the adventures that they encounter. Sometimes, I take a drive into the countryside and look at the beauty around me and decide to write about nature and the world around us – a world that many of us never see, because we are too busy to look.” “The one thing I never do, though, is think about what my book will be about. If I do that, I will never come up with the idea that I need to have.” She went on to say, “Sure, I put my intention out there about a topic for a new book, but then I just open up my mind to receive the topic that comes to me. I let it come to me, rather than searching for it on my own.”
The boy went home that night pondering the statement, “I let it come to me rather than searching for it on my own.” He decided that he would do the same and extinguished any thoughts on the “lifetime” decision that he had been pondering.
The days, weeks, and years, quickly flew by, when the boy, now a grandfather, found himself at his 80th birthday. He was about to blow out the candles when his young great grandson asked him, how he knew what it was he wanted to be when he grew up. The man looked straight into the young boy’s eyes, and said, “I never figured out what I wanted to be, I only let myself be anything that it wanted to be.” With that he blew out the candles and began to cut the cake.
The young boy, not being satisfied, asked his great grandfather another question. “Great granddaddy, may I ask another question?” “Yes, certainly you may,” he replied. “When you were my age, did you know that you would accomplish such great things? Did you know that you would earn a Nobel Prize and become president of our country?”
The man, stopped cutting the cake, sat down next to the boy, and looked deep into his eyes and said, “When I was your age, I tried to figure out what it is I wanted to be when I grew up, just like you are doing now. But then I figured out that trying to plan my life, especially at such a young age, would lead to one of two things. One, I would set such high hopes and expectations that I might always live my life as a failure, for I might never reach those expectations; and two, that if I set too low of hopes and expectations that I would never realize my potential. That is when I decided that I would live my life moment to moment and make those decisions one at a time. I stopped trying to plan and began living my life by following the things that gave me the most joy – much as magnet is drawn towards metal. I let my life’s joy be the magnet that drew me to the things that provided me with inner joy and happiness, the things that I needed to fulfill a happy, joyous life.”
He then went on to tell the boy, “Do not spend your life planning the rest of your life. Rather spend your life following the things that give you joy and living each moment to the fullest. Do not waste away your childhood, wishing and hoping that you were older. Live the things that you should do now that provide you with joy and happiness, and the things that make you feel happy and are fun. Do not fret over the future, for that will be a long lasting endeavor, and one that could never be won, much like a dog that chases its tail and ends up right where it started.” With that, the man offered the young boy a piece of chocolate cake and a smile.
A wise man is one who understands the need to let himself be drawn to the things, events, and people that he needs in his life. Things, events and people who are harmonious with his inner truth, while at the same time, understanding that a prior decision about who those things, events and people are, will inevitably end in doom.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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