‘Life Experiences’

A 13-hour bus ride to Washington D.C. in a blizzard. Nausea amid the stop-and-go traffic. Two-to-a-bed in a hotel room with strangers. Early mornings and late nights. A long bus ride back and arriving back in Boston at midnight.

One of our children is out of town for a political protest. This was something our child wanted to do.

And, we are very proud, as parents, due to our child’s willingness to make trade-offs between her personal beliefs and falling behind on school work. Grades are important, but they aren’t the Goal of Life. To be a hard-working but highly-principled person is. To choose the tougher path, but the more rewarding one, at the fork in the road. To build up grit.

As I know all too well myself, achievement separated from one’s values can be a trap (more here on “The Road to Happiness”). It reminds me of a lunch meeting I had this week with a friend. An Ivy League degree, with honors. Serious financial wealth at an early age. “Work was my drug,” she said, “and the more successful I was, the bigger the next hit had to be. It was a never-ending quest.”

As I’ve blogged previously, I think an ideal summer job for my older children would be working at McDonald’s. Get a life experience and learn to work with people from a wide spectrum of society. Internalize what a job at minimum wage means.

We are already encouraging our oldest child to take a “gap year” before college. Get a job somewhere and weave in some travel. See the world and learn about who you are and your Mission in life. Then, you’ll be more ready for college. If not, life can just be a series of treadmills, whereby you jump off one to the other and, then, another.

I think life is about choosing and accepting trade offs. Life is about, well, life experiences. Not just a series of events to fill a résumé.

We are worth far more than that.

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