March 7th, 2012

Eye of the Dragon

Parcel Post to the Past

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posited a question in a locked post:

If you could go back and talk to your high school self for ten minutes, what would you say?

And this is what Your Obedient Serpent would say to his younger self:

  1. Everyone tells you that you have to control your temper, but nobody tells you how. Well, here's the secret:

    You are not your temper. Your temper is not you. It's a physiological response, not a personality flaw.

    Nine-tenths of your "temper problem" is that when you feel that anger welling up inside you, you get frustrated at the anger itself, and that makes you angrier, and that makes you more frustrated. It's a feedback loop.

    The next time it flares up, tell yourself, "This isn't me. It's my body. What do I want to do right now?"

  2. You do not require a college degree to validate yourself as a human being, or even to "live up" to the (preposterously overinflated) intellect the standardized tests all insist you have.

    You're not going to "waste your potential" if you don't immediately push to get a degree right out of high school. If you do because everyone expects it of you -- or because you have some comic-book, Reed Richards notion of being a SCIENTIST, in capitals, italics, and boldface -- you just might be wasting potential you don't even know you have.

    You don't know it yet, but you're a very hands-on person. You don't know it yet, but you're a very outdoorsy person.

    Yeah, you have lofty, long-term goals for yourself and for humanity -- but you really thrive when What Needs To Be Done is right there in front of your face. At this stage, that sheepskin isn't tangible enough to keep you going full-bore.

    If you want fulfillment, if you want to do something that both applies your intellect and provides tangible benefits to humanity, you could do a whole lot worse than to enlist in the Coast Guard, become a Marine Science Technician, and stick with it, wringing every drop of education you can squeeze out of Uncle Sam while you save lives and protect the planet.

    That got your attention, didn't it? I know what's really going on in there, better than you do right now. Whatever you think right now, you're not about Science for Science's Sake. You're not about Pure Intellect. Science isn't a goal. It's a tool. I know what you really want, and what you need if you want to drag yourself out of bed for the next thirty years.

    You want to help people. You want to know that you've done everything in your power to make the world a better place.

    You want the never-ending battle.

    That brain of yours may never be Nobel Prize material, kid. You know it and I know it. It's still a pretty impressive piece of wetware, though.

    You've got the lever.

    Go find a place to stand.