I'm staying up late with Ben, talking about his future. He's a bit frustrated, not knowing what kind of a career to pick. "I just can't picture myself doing really any kind of job," he bemoans. It's a bit funny to me because this bright, capable boy thinks there isn't anything to. He could do anything. Really! So I just smile and listen and ask an occasional question.
At one break, I ask, "So what do you like to do?" knowing that he likes lots of things, but hoping to narrow the field somewhat.
"Just about everything. Stuff I learn about: math, science, art, music, English, history - everything. It's interesting, but not super fascinatingly interesting. I want to fly planes, have a Jeep and a dog and a motorcycle. And a wife and some kids. And be rich. And I want my kids to have something cool to say when the other kids ask what their dad does. I like being in charge, because I don't like it when stupid people are in charge of me. But I don't like having to make hard decisions or be the one responsible for a screw-up.
"I'm sweating about it because I have no idea. I hate jumping into the dark. I guess I shouldn't look too far ahead right now, and just concentrate on the things that are in front of me. I like to be prepared, but if I don't know where I want to go, then I can't be ready for it. I kind of just want to be a scholar and be endorsed by the gods, like in ancient Greece. I want to keep learning, not learn something and just do it over and over again. And I want to contribute. I just don't know how."
This is the boy who pulls straight A's on his report card of mostly honor classes; the one who was bummed that his chemistry class was boring; the one who is shooting for a perfect 36 on the ACT. This is the boy who really could do anything.
And can't we all, really, do anything?
There are grownup considerations and responsible worries... but we really can do anything good we put our minds and our muscle to. It's a freeing thought. And true. Because even in middle age - or even old age - we still have unlimited potential. I love my teenagers and the things I learn from them. Thanks, Ben. I needed that.