The following cartoon on Incidental Comics has been making its way around Tumblr. From the uncomparable Grant Snider, it really struck a chord in me. It’s called “Disclaimer” but in my own head I couldn’t help but retitle it. You can’t do everything…or can you? I wanted to respond, I wanted to say things and fight against some of what feels like cynicism. Some would argue that it is real-world pragmatism, but my internal compass rails against that thought.
This amazing webcomic really made me think about my life and my own philosophy. My wife teases me every so often by repeating something I said to her more than 10 years ago – “The more things you do, the more hours in the day you find to do them.” Now that I’m older, I can recognize the hubris in that statement. No, there aren’t always enough hours to finish that project, or the make it to the gym, or any number of other activities. But the phrase HAS worked well for me. And I do believe there is a lot of truth in it. Snider ends the comic with the caption: “You CAN be anything you want to be…but can you be EVERYTHING you want to be?” I would posit – yes. And even if you can’t quite make everything, in the attempt you will gain so much.
I have a fulfilling job, a wonderful wife, great friends, and a fantastic home. In addition, I work on outside policy blogging, I fence and workout at my gym regularly, I play guitar, I volunteer, I write fantasy and science fiction…If there is anything that remains from my “everything I wanted to do” it would be “being an astronaut” (not too different from the character in the comic). But I read about space and science; I watched Curiosity’s amazing release and landing (I even got the Hot Wheels toy to commemorate the event – Thank you wonderful wife!), I follow the rover on Twitter, and support conventions that encourage young women into non-traditional fields such as space, and even put a few dollars towards a space-based documentary on Kickstarter. My life is enriched by my love of space and science even though I never did make it to the moon.
I still do believe in doing everything. Snider says, “One of the most difficult questions to answer is “What do you want to be when you grow up?”" and he’s right. It is. But what hurts my heart is that somewhere along the way, we tell young people that you have to give up on some of the things you love; some of the very things that make you…well, you. Machiavelli said, “Make no small plans, for they have no power to move the soul.” I would argue that we DO need to keep dreaming of doing everything; more than that, we need to keep striving for everything. These are our loves. They shape not only who and what we are, but who and what we can be. There are so many amazing and beautiful events, experiences, and so much knowledge out there in the world – lets keep chasing those loves.
For those with a screenreader:
Panel 1 – A boy in his room with things all around him. Books, musical instruments, a space shuttle toy, a camera, and paintings.
Caption: You can be anything you want to be!
Panel 2 – Boy swings from a trapeze.
Caption: With some natural ability.
Panel 3 – Boy enters a bounce castle with an astronaut.
Caption: In the right economy.
Panel 4 – Boy practicing his musical instrument.
Caption: After years of diligent study.
Panel 5 – Boy in a boat with camera. Under the boat in the water is a giant squid.
Caption: Given ideal opportunities.
Panel 6 – Boy is painting. Wife is watching angry. Baby is on floor.
Caption: By neglecting other responsibilities.
Panel 7 – Boy balancing on a highwire with a baby on his back, wearing an astronaut suit, carrying a music instrument, camera and paint brushes.
Caption: You CAN be anything you want to be…but can you be EVERYTHING you want to be?