Do you want to know what you should do right now? Do you want to know what your best bet is for your next career? Look at what you were doing when you were a kid. Nothing changes when you grow up except that you get clouded vision from thinking about what you SHOULD do — to be rich, or successful, or to please your parents or peers — the possibilities for should are endless.
When I was a kid, my brother and I went to Hebrew school every Tuesday and Thursday. It didn’t take me long to realize that the classes were absurd. Parents didn’t make you do your homework, and teachers just kept teaching the same thing week after week. At some point I realized that all kids would get bar or bat mitzvahs as long as we showed up on a regular basis. So I stopped paying attention.
Except for the best class ever. That was the class when my teacher told us to close our books and she described her time in Auschwitz. She talked in a thicker German accent than usual. And she showed us the number the Nazis tattooed on her arm. I remember every second of her story.
The second best day of Hebrew school was when I convinced my younger brother to ditch with me. I had to sell him on the idea: First that we wouldn’t get caught. (I had a plan to be back in time so that we could walk to the parking lot with the other kids.) Second I had to convince him that we would have a good time. (I brought money to buy ice cream at the store five blocks away.)
He was really not happy about the idea. He kept telling me that it wasn’t so bad to go to Hebrew school and that it was over in an hour, and in that one hour you could ask to go to the bathroom two times.
This is what’s true about me in my Hebrew school story:
I have no patience for group learning.
I love a good story.
I enjoy trying to convince people to see things my way.
I’m a risk taker.
And all those things are true of me today, as well. That’s why I think that you can figure out who you are and what you should be doing by telling yourself the stories of your childhood. In fact, in almost every story I can think of, I’m trying to convince someone to do things my way.
Here’s another thing you can do to figure out what you should do with your life: Close your eyes and think of a great memory of childhood… Do you have it?
In my own, haphazard studies of this test, you can always learn something from the moment you pick. The first time I did this exercise, I thought of playing in my grandparents’ huge front yard. Of course, I was telling all my younger cousins what to do. Probably telling them why croquet was a great idea and I was going first. Something like that. But the bigger thing I learn from the story is that I am connected to space and nature and running around. All still true for me now, but it took me years of living in big cities before I could figure that out.
It’s nearly impossible to eradicate our life of SHOULDS, because we all want to make the right decisions. But I think I could have figured out right decisions for me a lot faster if I had realized how much we reveal about our true selves when we’re young.