“How could you let him throw his life away?” my neighbor asked all those years ago. She was speaking of my son, who had recently announced he wanted to major in music, to switch from math and Russian.
“He could be an engineer or a lawyer, something important, but you are letting him major in music? ” My mother asked. “You are letting him throw his life away. Just like you did!” The anger in her voice was hard and sharp.
Maybe you’ve heard that phrase, too–“Throwing your life away.” It sounds dangerous, stupid, harmful. In my son’s case, and earlier, my case, it was what saved our lives.
I knew from personal experience that unless you follow the path that beckons, the journey will be rocky, harsh, and may well lead you into a personal, barren wilderness.
So when my son told me he was interested in music, I was pleased. It was good he could see so clearly the path he wanted to follow.
He threw away many possibilities–all the ones that were wrong for him. The ones that would have left him unsatisfied, a drone at his work, uninspired. The ones that would have weighed like stones in the pockets of his dreams.
Years earlier, I blundered down the path of success as my parents saw it for me. It was years till I could “throw my life away,” and create the life I wanted. It was hard, but ahead of me was the steady light of life’s purpose, a sure knowledge that writing was where meaning-making lived.
The compass was there, but I wasn’t as sure in my choices. I didn’t believe in myself as much as I believed that my parents knew best. When I figured out that their advice fit their lives and I would have to find my own path, I threw my old life away, too. And am happier for it.