My body is confused. I woke up an hour ago at 10:30pm to the sound of what I thought was my alarm clock telling me it was 5:00am but was in fact my uncle calling me. I had been asleep since 5:30pm. All of this is undoubtedly the result of my recent decision to try Crossfit, a brand of exercise that actually brands itself by eschewing any notion of “brand” and leaving its participants’ bodies craving large bowls of Cheerios at 11 o’clock at night. (Note to self: investigate any possible correlations between Crossfit’s origins and General Mills.)
I couldn’t fall back asleep and instead turned to my ever-growing list of “things to check out later on the internet” and ended up listening to a commencement speech given by a lady by the name of Debbie Millman. In it she encourages the eager graduates to consider making choices that might not be so in line with standard expectations and instead, as seems to be required in commencement speeches, to “do what you love”.
The funny thing about “do what you love” is that the people who say that are almost always older and smarter than the people being told that. It’s a kind thing to say, much like “be yourself”, etc. But it’s also a completely meaningless thing to say to someone who hasn’t had the experience necessary to acquire any confidence in his or her passions. Before you can do what you love, you need to know what you love.
I’m trying to remember the first time it was presumed that I knew what I loved. I feel as though I’ve been told to do what I love for my entire life. It seems absurd to imagine a five-year-old me being given that advice, so it must have been later than that. You know, it was probably at my eighth grade commencement speech. It’s funny now to think about my middle school principal writing a speech for a bunch of kids about to go to high school, but I’d be willing to bet that he told us to do what we loved. What else could he have said?
I know what I would tell a group of fourteen-year-olds, should I ever have the honor to give a middle school commencement address: “Figure out what you love. From now on, a lot of people are going to be telling you to do what you love. It will be meaningless but you should thank them for the good advice and use it as a reminder to keep trying to figure out what you love. You’re fourteen. You don’t love anything. Well maybe you love Rage Against the Machine and low-cut t-shirts, but you don’t actually love those things. I mean, maybe you do, I mean, it’s all relative. But you’ll love other things more than that later in life. Or maybe you won’t. Oh jeez, I should have thought more about this before I got up here. Life’s hard and wait a minute, no it’s not. You are kids in suburban Chicago about to go to a high school that you can walk to and from safely. Why am I giving this speech again?”
Don’t worry about doing what you love. That’s a 21st century luxury that was invented by people who want to give commencement speeches and the kind of people who make stuff like this. Just love. The rest will take care of itself.