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In which John answers the oft-asked question, "How do I figure out what to do with my life?" Along the way, he discusses adulthood, careers, movies, and the meaning of life and stuff.


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A Bunny
( - -)
((') (')
Good morning, Hank; it's Tuesday.

What do I have in common with a Catholic Priest? I'd just feel naked without my collar!

It's question Tuesday, the day that I answer real questions from real Nerdfighters! Just the one question today: I'm a college freshman. How do I figure out what the hell to do with my life?

Hank, we get some version of this question almost every day, but to answer the question I have to begin by disagreeing with it. The whole "what do I do with my life" question implies that adulthood is this monolithic creature that, like, you acquire your job and your spouse and then you just ride it out until time's winged chariot shows up. I thought this when I was younger too and it's not our fault because how does every single "happily ever after" movie end?

With finding your one true love and kissing them! Occasionally marrying them - at the very latest having a child with them. Ninety-five percent of romantic stories end with partners committing to each other because everything after that is just the blank, terrifying morass of adulthood, this monotonous grind in which the only real excitement in your life is occasionally finding a truly ripe avocado at the grocery store. (Now listen Hank, I'm not gonna lie to you: I get very excited when I find a truly ripe avocado at the grocery store, but it's not the only excitement in my life!) And let me submit that one of the reasons you're so terrified about figuring out what you're going to do with your life, is that you think you're only going to be able to do one thing!

Like, if someone told you that in four years you were going to have to pick one musical note to listen to for the rest of your life, you would spend a lot of time being super anxious about which note to pick and the various tonal qualities of different notes! But that's not what life is like! You will always be figuring out what to do with your life, and you'll get to do lots of different things, and your decisions will be unmade by circumstance.

Like your wife gets a job in Kuala Lumpur, or you're staring at the night sky one night and decide to get a Ph. D in astrophysics, or your uncle dies and there's no one to take over his junkyard, or your little brother starts a frickin' video conference. Just like your life now, adulthood will have all this tension between idealism and practicality, and you'll have to balance competing desires.

I mean give yourself some credit! Even if you're fourteen or fifteen, you're already kind of doing adulthood! But I think what actually scared me about choosing whether to go to school and what to study was that each time I made a decision, my options narrowed.

Right, like if you're pre-med you're probably not going to be a software designer, if you study archaeology you're probably not going to become an electrical engineer. And there is something a little terrifying about the narrowing of those possibilities because you become aware that they will continue to narrow until you are dead (and that sucks). But here's the other thing: if you don't make decisions, the options still narrow!

And you don't have to do just one thing - you can be an electrical engineer who volunteers on archaeological digs. William Carlos Williams was both a poet and a doctor, Julia Child, aside from being an extraordinary chef was also a freaking spy for the United States! I mean, Hank, if you told my college self that I'd one day be a novelist with a side gig putting my mustachioed face on the torsos of strangers I would have been duly surprised.

And you studied organic fracking chemistry before writing songs about Harry Potter. So here's my advice: study broadly and without fear. Learn a language if you can because that will make your life more interesting.

Read a little bit every day. But most importantly, try to surround yourself with people you like and make cool stuff with them. In the end (at least in my experience), what you do isn't going to be nearly as interesting or important as who you do it with.

And Hank, that's why I always say that the best decision we made as video bloggers was also the first decision: to collaborate with each other. (Under his breath) Oh that sounds perilously close to me saying that I love my brother, so I need to cut the sentiment a little bit. I need to think of something, like maybe I'll just be like "he has, you have a stupid face, or something". Yeah, that's good. (Aloud) Hank, you have a stupid face.

I'll see you on Friday.