Marginalizing a Lie


It’s odd to think there are now multiple “generations’ between me and the children born today. I’m grateful to not be part of Generation Y (also known as the Millennials), which are classified those born between 1982 and 2002, and their associated problems. But, I am old enough that one of the insipid lies at the root of many of this generation’s problems was already finding its way into our everyday speech and interaction in eduction. This lie, designed to inspire, is simply this:

You can do or be anything you want.

It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s a lie, a fact I was lucky enough to discover early in life. Here’s the story of my disillusionment.

When in elementary school, I can remember very clearly the day when I couldn’t read what was written on the blackboard. I didn’t know why the teacher hadn’t written it clearly or why none of my classmates were having problems with it. But, out of desperation bred from being a perfectionist, I got up from my desk and walked most of the way to the front of the room to read the assignment. If I couldn’t read it, I couldn’t do it.

I’m sure this little exercise was noticed by my teacher. How could it not have been? I’m fairly sure it’s what prompted my being called to the administration office for an eye exam several days later. The verdict was clear. I had myopia’, more commonly known as near-sightedness, and required glasses.

Skylab and Earth Limb

Skylab and Earth Limb

Like most little boys, I dreamed of being a NASA astronaut or Air Force pilot. The idea of the speed and excitement was intoxicating to my young mind. But for some reason, I also knew both of these required perfect, natural vision. Even surgically corrected vision wasn’t acceptable. So, with the glasses came the guarantee that regardless of how much I wanted it or worked for it, I would never have either of these careers. They were shut off to me forever. Absolutely nothing could be done.

What I had been told was a lie. But, better to learn that young than believing it for the first twenty-something years of life and then having it spectacularly dashed.

So, what should we tell our children?

Tell your children to dream. Tell your children to pursue their dreams. Tell them it’s okay for dreams to change, but not to be lost. We now live in an age where space tourism is not only a reality, but is becoming ever more accessible. One day, I may still see the glory of creation from outside this terrestrial globe, and if I want, I can even launch my own sub-orbital exploratory device for a fraction of the cost for a space flight. Dreams need not die, but may need to evolve.

It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.
Gabriel García Márquez

Tell your children that it’s okay to explore and push the boundaries of what others think is possible. Encourage them to grow to become their best.

Tell them to dream.
Tell them to learn.
Tell them to discover.

Teach them to be best they can be. The truth that should be taught is:

You can attain your potential, and your potential is great.

It won’t be easy, not handed out on a silver platter. But, through hard work and determination it is possible. Nothing illustrates this better than Caroline Casey‘s story, which I won’t say anything about, as I’d hate to spoil it.

The road goes ever on and on down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow, if I can, pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.
J.R.R. Tolkien