It’s graduation season.
And every June, I get asked by soon-to-be high school graduates big questions about work.
“How do you know your doing the right work?”
“How do you find work you’re passionate about?”
“How do you avoid unhappiness and complacency?”
Though I don’t consider myself a beacon of wisdom on such matters (I’m still learning myself), I’m always flattered and (always) a bit stunned by the demands of these questions.
And despite having graduated high school almost 20 years ago and am now 20 years older than most of my students, I’m still wrestling down a response.
But here’s my latest attempt to explain what I know about work.
Dylan, my 3 year old son, is stretched on the living room floor playing with his trucks, pushing them across the carpet, parking them next to a row of couch pillows.
He makes truck sounds. Honks and beeps and low rumbling growls. He is lost in his little world, playing and imaging, when his eyes snap suddenly wide.
He jumps to his feet, holds himself and launches into some full-body toddler tribal dance.
“I have to go potty, I have to go potty!
“Well go Dylan!”
Still holding himself, Dylan turns, runs across the living room, breaks out beyond sight as the patter of his little rushing feet trails away to the bathroom.
Parents of young children bare witness to the sudden need-to-pee-pneumonia all the time.
Children get so lost in play, so focused on the present that the pangs erupting from their bladder are ignored until the very last moment.
This moment fascinates me — that a mind can be so enraptured, so focused that it’s ignorant to what is going on in the body.
They might have a bumbling vocabulary and their nose always drippy but children possess the stuff of Buddhist monks.
When I reach the bathroom, Dylan is standing at the front of the toilet with his Paw Patrol underwear lassoed around his ankles. He’s head bowed, his eyes studying the tile.
“Dylan, did you go potty?”
He flinches. His shoulders inch closer to his ears. His eyes refuse to look.
Dylan did you go potty?
He slowly, sheepishly looks up , his eyes ache with tears, “No. I peed myself.”
Why More Adults Should Pee Themselves
Sure, it’s hyperbolic, but stay with me.
I love watching my children lost in absolute play, seemingly ignorant to both the outside and inside world. It’s amazing that children can become so invested in play that they will ignore their screaming bladder. ( I hate to brag but a few months ago Dylan’s efforts earned him a tract infection.)
From what I’ve seen, most adults are bored. They find no wonder in their work. So they fill that void with frivolous things, destructive behavior and unnecessary drama.
As adults, we pine to find good work. Work so curious and engaging that we become constructively lost. Work that we joyously return to again and again.
Listen, my analogy may sound sophomoric (and clearly I’m not advocating bladder infections) but it’s absolutely critical for young adults to find good work that inspires deep contemplation, deep play — the kind of work that is hard to walk away from, not because of the money or convenience or ease, but because you simply the love the essence of it.
My advice for all those who will be turning the tassel and contemplating their future profession — if you find work that is the igniter of imagination, the destroyer of clocks, the antagonist of bladders, work that reminds you of what it was like to be lost on the living room floor, congratulations — you found your work.
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