Every year, I buy my mom a book for her birthday. It’s become something she looks forward to each September. In fact, it’s quite a logical gift. My mom loves churning through pages before she goes to bed each night. I’m a writer who has essentially learned everything I know from reading. A New York Times Bestseller usually sells for $20 to $30 dollars in hardcover, a perfect and very personalized gift for a kid on a budget.
Mom tells me I’ve never picked a bad book, but she’s since figured out that my secret motivation behind buying her books is that I know I’ll get to read them after she’s finished.
A few years ago, I came across a book at our local Barnes & Noble. It was blue, paperback, and had multicolored balloons on the front. No, it wasn’t the true story of Disney Pixar’s UP. It had two words in white script across the front: “Love Does.” The book was a bestseller written by “recovering” lawyer from southern California, a Mr. Bob Goff. The subhead: “Discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world.”
I bought it.
Mom’s reviews of the book were exceptional and mine are through the roof, but this column is in no way a book review – rather, a commentary on the college afterlife, through the lens of what I learned from Bob.
When I left for Bradley, people told me that college would change the way I think; challenge my beliefs. It would be an experience that would change my life. I’ve enjoyed my time in college. I’ve written a lot of articles and papers. I’ve read a lot of books, some trifling, others thought-provoking. Still, I haven’t come across a message that comes close to that balloon bound bestseller.
If you’re reading this column, odds are you’ve read some of the past week’s Scout senior columns. So did I. As I read them I thought to myself, ‘Hmm, senior year seems to come with a lot of change and uncertainty.’ It seems to be a time that many people want to look back, while resisting the reality of their inevitable future away from college. It’s a time when people get caught in the mysterious in-between. It’s already scary to me and I’ve got one more semester to go.
As Bob said, “Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.”
In his book, Bob talks about living a life that’s secretly incredible, like superheroes minus the capes. In this day and age so much of our lives is public knowledge. We broadcast our days through Snapchat stories and Instagram pictures of our best sides. It’s hard to be secretive. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s there, does it even make a sound? If you go to the gym and you don’t take a snap of your progress, were you even there?
We’re all striving for incredible. That’s not a secret. We all want the people around us to see our capes, and see all the exciting things we’re doing, because we’re doing a lot of them. We like the likes, and favorites are our favorites. But being incredible doesn’t depend on who sees you.
“Maybe we could do something not based on status or title, but because of our hearts. If you have a mission statement, maybe this should be it … write on [your] undershirt ‘Be Awesome.’”
If you’re a senior reading this maybe you have something lined up after graduation. Maybe you’ve got a degree from a good school and still have no clue which direction you want to go. If you’re an underclassman drowning in what seems to be an overwhelming storm of finals, it doesn’t matter. You can’t always shape the perfect scenario.
Before I read “Love Does,” I used to think that I could put together a formula for success; or in the words of a communications major, an outline for writing a story of my fulfilling life. Getting into college + making friends + nabbing those internships + having a dream job = good life. But I realized that it’s really hard to connect the dots going forward. There’s uncertainty, there’s people following your every move and there are bumps in the road.
“We are all rough drafts of the people we are still becoming.”
And if we are all still rough drafts, what if we all did decide to become secretly awesome? It wouldn’t be a picnic, it would be atypical. Atypical can be scary and hard to embrace. “Secretly incredible people keep what they do secret, because the only one that needs to know … already does.”