1. Pay For It Yourself
You’ve heard it said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride,” (Hunter S. Thompson). I amend that only slightly. Buy the ticket YOURSELF.
Pay for it yourself. And by it, I mean everything. And by everything I mean travel, and student loans, and rent (which is pretty much all we single middle-class people have to worry about). So come on, let’s at least take care of that. Don’t study abroad on daddy’s dime. It’s such a waste. Seriously. Nothing could be less fulfilling than AMEX-ing the gelato at Trevi Fountain to the old man.
There’s a depth and a desire and a deep reward at the end of saving for something – at the end of pursuing a dream and then finally having enough to do it, and doing it; and having done it ALL by yourself. It’s life-giving. It’s energizing beyond the point of a hundred espresso shots. I need to know more what that’s all about. So do you.
Pay for it yourself. All of it.
2. Do All The Time
Staying in a job, professional or otherwise, for any time longer than 9 months – aka, the length of a school year – sounds brutal, I know. It’s a finish line I’ve yet to cross. Which is why I’m preaching to the choir of me myself and I here. We need to do some time.
I watch a lot of European soccer. (Sue me, I traveled for years, and when it’s all you got, it becomes all you want.) David Villa is a striker (that means he kicks the ball into the other team’s goal) formerly of world superclub FC Barcelona. He was phenomenal at his position. I always loved watching Villa because he always just seemed to be at exactly the right place at exactly the right time. The athlete’s art. He’d score before you hardly knew he touched it – he didn’t need any fancy tricks. He was just there, all the time.
What I didn’t know about Villa, is that – unlike most of the other stars in Spanish football (who have been trained and pure-bred in pro club schools year-round, basically from the time they get out of diapers) – he came up the long way ‘round. See, Villa didn’t play for Barcelona until the 2010-11 season. That was 10 years after he gave his life to the game.
Villa started out at Sporting de Gijon (a club no one has heard of) in 2000. He scored goals. Then he moved to Real Zaragoza (a club no one not from Spain has heard of) in 2003. Scored more goals. Stayed there. Then came Valencia (a club a few people in Europe, but definitely not America, have heard of). He played mid-level Spanish ball for five more years, from 2005-2010. He scored more goals. Then in October 2009, he was nominated for the FIFA Ballon D’Or – which is basically French for “you are now a big deal” – and is the only player-of-the-year award that the world outside of America cares about.
In 2010, Villa was signed by Barcelona.
Barcelona is the highest paying soccer club in the world, with a payroll on par with the Yankees. They’re a club whose jerseys get worn by kids from Zambia to Beijing…to adult young men in their mid-twenties from Cincinnati, Ohio [guilty]. A club whose players marry pop-stars like Shakira and win World Cups for their national teams, and are so pursued by world media that even the likes of Esquire will gratefully slurp up a ten-minute afterthought of an interview with a player in his underwear in between Dolce & Gabbana photoshoots. [Lionel Messi, true story].
Everybody loves a story like Villa’s. A guy coming from the bottom to the top. A guy doing the time, putting in the man hours and the sweat and the thankless nights and all that stuff you see in Gatorade commercials – and all the stuff the movies squeeze into a 20-second montage so they can get to the “important” part of the story.
But I hate that stuff. I hate the thought of doing the time. I’m clearly smarter and more talented than all that noise. And someone will definitely pluck me from oblivion to perform a job for which I have demonstrated no on-paper aptitude, because God just loves me that daggone much. I am special.
3. Make The Choice
This is brutal. This is life. It makes me a little sad. And it’s the hardest piece of my own advice to take, right in the face.
A lot of people want things. I want to be a rock star who is one of those Dave Grohl-esque characters who starts multiple rock bands that all sell millions of albums and then collaborates with Paul McCartney on the side, and everyone loves him because he’s so nice on talk shows with Letterman and yet “sooo rock and roll!” at the same time. On top of this – and it could come before or after the rock, I don’t really care – I want to be a bestselling author who is also a humanitarian and builds houses in Africa…who is also a professional SCUBA diver…who also, side note, happens to have a dazzlingly beautiful wife who turns down photoshoot offers from Maxim because she is both dignified and equally wary of tainting her career as a brain surgeon.
It’s natural to want the world. It’s harder to know which part of the world wants you. We can’t do it all. There aren’t enough hours in the day. So, you get to want a lot of things; and then you get to be good at one, maybe two of them. (Maybe three if you don’t sleep, and have an IQ that makes Isaac Newton look slow.) But most of us – most of us will get to be really good at one thing. And that’s if we work really hard and stop watching movies on the weekends, and hunker over a laptop, or spend the night at the office when everyone else is going on dates and getting married and drinking beer. And being good at that one thing will require time and thankless hours and loneliness and fatigue and an almost daily “what the hell am I doing?” existential valuation of your life’s worth.
But it’s better than the opposite – which is to get fat and apathetic in front of an Xbox console.
Now let’s see if I can go take my own medicine. Onward.