The Young Man and the Old Newspaper Vendor
The young man looked at his watch. It was only 2 pm and yet Monday seemed to have lasted an eternity. He looked through the huge glass windows down thirty floors onto the streets below. What he saw just made him more sick. There they were, people just like him. Shuffling back and forth like ants trying to get to their appointments and miserable jobs. He knew exactly how it felt, after all there was no difference between him and the people down below. Everyone was going about their business just because they had to; not because they loved what they did.
He had come out top of his class and that’s how he got this job. The pay was good and he always looked sharp in his neatly tailored suits. His family was proud and his friends were ever envious. It always seemed to swing girls his way whenever he mentioned what he did for a living. He was in a comfort zone. But even with all this flare the young man was not happy. He was good at numbers and after a couple of promotions in the company, he knew his life was set and he would never end up like his father. All the same, this definitely didn’t feel like what he was meant to do in life. However there was one thing that always held him back whenever he started down this road, fear.
You see over the years he had observed his father fall from grace and spiral into a abyss of drunkenness and hopeless fear and pessimism. He always seem to have a volume of reasons why this or that idea wouldn’t work. He was a proud man and therefore would not stoop low to venture out and find work; not after he had been an employer in his previous life. So he spent his days reminiscing about days gone by when he was ‘the man’ whom everyone wanted to be associated with. To the young man, his father’s attitude disgusted him but he knew all too well that people always have a high likelihood of inheriting the failures of their parents. He wanted something different for himself.
So the young man embarked on a quest to find out what his purpose was.
He first asked his mother what she thought he was good at and her answer made him sad. You see mothers always know when a man is toying around with the idea of making a drastic move and so naturally, she assured him that he was already doing what he was good at. The young man regretted asking his mother for such advise as he knew she was naturally protective of him and wouldn’t want him to make a mistake. She also was afraid that he would end up like his father who years before had made a gamble and lost everything he had. After that, she was always cautioning all her children against taking risks.
The young man then asked his girlfriend, “What if I quit my job to follow my passion?”
She was dumfounded and couldn’t believe his foolishness. She was proud that her boyfriend had a god job, flashy car and had everything looking up for him. She always made sure she told her friends how important and successful her boyfriend was in the company. Now here he was harboring the foolish thought of quitting a well paying job to to pursue a utopian ambition! She made sure that he understood that if he made such an unwise decision, their life together would be over. After all, who would want to be known as the girlfriend to the guy who dropped a great opportunity to follow a stupid passion?
The young man thought about asking his friends what his purpose was but he knew their answer. Over the years, he had lost the friends that he had before the job, and now his only friends were people who never knew the slightest detail about his private life. They were superficial and always in competition as to who had the best car and who was dating the hottest girl. Deep down he had sadly accepted that if he lost his job, he would lose his friends too.
So on a fine day after coming from having coffee with a client he stopped to buy a newspaper a few blocks from his office. The vendor was an old man probably in his late seventies who was clad in a dirty heavy coat even though it was sunny. As the young man paid for the paper he noticed the old man squinting at him through his thick pair of glasses.
“I know that look”, said the old man. “I had it through out my youth”.
The young man was baffled. “Pardon me?” he asked politely thinking that the old man was probably talking about his suit. But the old man went on as if he hadn’t heard the young man.
“I knew that I was meant for something bigger in life and yet I ignored the feeling all my life. I was afraid of letting go of what I had, to chase an urge that I couldn’t understand. I was afraid of losing and suffering the consequences of my choice. I was always afraid.
I kept giving myself more time to ‘be sure’ and asked advise from everyone I knew only to be discouraged. In the end I decided to stick to what I had because I thought it’s what I deserved. That was the biggest mistake I ever made. I became miserable and never once did I enjoy my job or anything else in my life. Can you imagine living like that for sixty years knowing you were meant to do something else?
So here I am, selling you a newspaper. I always wanted to travel the world and see new places, but now I can only read about them. I ended up doing this because when I was young I always dreamed of being a writer for this newspaper but I kept procrastinating to send a sample of my writing to the editor. I was afraid it would not be good enough so I never sent it. Now I can only admire the young writers who conquered their fears and are now living their dream. In the end my fear to lose my comfort is the curse I will have to die with.” And suddenly without warning he said “Read page three! I hear they are about to raise the parking fees within the business district starting tomorrow.” And with that, he went on selling his newspapers.
As the young man got into the elevator, he opened the newspaper and flipped to page three hoping the old man wanted him to find a clue. There was no story about parking fees but a basic full page advertisement by some furniture shop announcing a discount sale. The young man smiled and took a deep breath. He finally understood that finding his purpose was a journey he was going to take on his own.
This post is dedicated to you. You feel uninspired and out of place but are afraid to open that door that will lead you to a happy life filled with passion. For how long can you live like that?