About a week ago, I found myself at a birthday party for a friend of my parents. Given the nature of the event, I was one of the only young people within a sea of middle-aged adults, subsequently making me the target of rapid-fire questioning: “Where do you go to school again?”; “So, do you have a boyfriend?”; “Are you still friends with that girl from high school … what is her name again?”; “What are you studying at school?”; and of course, “Well, what are you planning to do with that degree?”
I can never answer that last question confidently (I mean, who really can?). So, I end up spewing something out about journalism or working in/around government, finishing with the fact that I still have some time to figure it out. When I was asked this question by a couple of tipsy moms and dads at this party, I word-vomited a similar concept but I ended with “I’m not sure honestly, but the world is my oyster!”
I don’t really know what possessed me to say this, because I would like to think that I have a baseline understanding of our present-day economy. But, it just kind of came out. It also came as a total shock to my audience, with one of the dads pulling out a, “Wow, I haven’t heard that phrase in years.”
Their relatively perverse reaction to such a hopeful, positive claim made me start to think about whether or not my understanding of the world is grounded enough.
On many levels, I am an idealist. I am still inspired by the words of (some) politicians, often getting fired up about the possibility of radical change. I am a complete and total romantic — watching certain movies and reading passion-filled books fuels my ideas about true love. I see the best in people, I would probably lend too much money to someone I shouldn’t and I haven’t completely outgrown elementary-school dreams about being president. To sum it up, I approach many aspects of life with a lightness that I realize many people have rejected or completely avoid.
Now, this is not to say that I don’t have a firm grasp of reality. I understand the many ways in which this world is unjust, I see my parents getting into fights and I have a measly excuse for a savings account. So, I don’t exist in oblivion. That being said, I try not to let “the sad reality” influence my viewpoint about the future.
After this thorough examination of my outlook on life, I have come to realize that one cannot reject idealism and embrace pure practicality in their entireties, or vice versa. In fact, the most productive existence is one that strikes a delicate balance between the two. Hopes and desires are what makes us human, just as having the knowledge that failure is inevitable. While subscribing to pragmatism is a valuable way to navigate the world, true purpose comes when you bolster it with the unrealistic. A fruitful existence is one that rests on a foundation of totally wild goals and possibly unreachable states of being, while also being defined by a deep social awareness and the understanding that hard work is the key to materializing any of these dreams.
Our generation, both implicitly and explicitly, is constantly reminded that we can’t be “grown-ups” and dream big. I have decided to reject this sentiment. Although not all of us will be the president, the astronaut that lands on Mars, the star of the ballet or the crime fighting detective, some of us will. So, be a little unrealistic because the world is, in fact, our oyster.