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Reach For Your Stars

              Think back to high school, to your senior year, when you made difficult decisions regarding the college you would attend, the major you would choose and the career you would follow.
            Remember how everyone had an opinion.  Your English teacher suggested a career in education.  Your science teacher wanted you to become a chemist because of your fine mind.  Your father insisted on you going into the family business.  Everyone had an opinion and, because you respected them or because of family pressure, you chose a career based on that feedback.
            You may have become so taken with your prospects that you never considered the field you loved.
            Most people complete college with whatever degrees they could obtain and go into a preordained career, where they move up the ranks over the next ten to twenty years.
            About the age of forty, they start asking where they are going with their lives, whether the boring routine they face every day is what life is all about.  Frustrated, they look for answers.
            Why do I care so much about this subject?
            I was one of those high schoolers whose teachers pointed the way, in my case to chemistry.  I duly enrolled at UC Riverside as a chemistry major.  Now I must tell you that since I was in elementary school, I had been reading history and studying ancient kings, fascinated with the march of the centuries.  But that was pleasure.  What could one do with history?
            After a week as a chemistry major, I knew I could never do this for a living.  I made a decision and changed my major without discussing it with parents, friends, or old teachers.  I enrolled as a history major and received my degree in history.  I wrote papers and worked on the college newspaper, eventually becoming editor, something I would never have attempted as a chemistry major.
            After college, I worked as a journalist and editor and photographer, following the creative path that most suited me by nature.  I reached for my own stars.
            Today I meet friend after friend who followed somebody else’s stars, the recovering business executives who are now consultants, the scientists who could not stand the thought of making one more experiment, the professional who wondered where the meaning in their lives went.
            I tell them my story.  I tell them about the stars I almost reached for, the stars owned by others.  I tell them that I made my own choice and followed the areas I passionately cared for to the exclusion of making a lot of money or creating a career that would take all of my time.
            They ask how to recapture their own passions, buried deeply under years of doing the will of others.  They ask where their stars are now and how to find them.
            I answer that they are where they always were, just beyond reach, in the same place the passions of their youth reside, where work seems like play and pleasure makes money.
            And I tell them, “You have spent your life reaching for the stars owned by others.  Now reach for your own stars.”



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"Abundant thanks for your wonderful and inspiring talk last Tuesday afternoon. Those of us who were fortunate enough to hear your talk were greatly entertained and instructed by it. Many thanks again for coming." -- Maurya Simon, Creative Writing Department, University of California Riverside


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