What is society that I must follow its “imaginary hand” rules?

I am presently reading a book that my younger sister and brother asked me to read called “The Giver,” written by Lois Lowry. It reminds of a young Huxley before “A Brave New World.” The story is fundamentally the same. A utopian society, bothered by a riff of mis-intelligence, someone catches on, must suffer through pain due to truth. The whole story is told in order that one might question themselves as to why they follow rules established by the civil “norm”.
Don’t think this applies to you? Well it does. Have you ever wanted to follow the career choice that you think would fit you best and then looked at how much they make and decided against it? Ever known that you didn’t want to go to college but to please your parents or those around you, you went? Do you feel pressure to graduate high school by at least 18, college by no later than 23, married by 25, kids by 28, etc. etc. That my friend is the invisible hand of society pressuring you to keep up with those around you, and I must tell you in advance it is futile.
I say screw the system, do what you think is best. Ever heard the saying “keeping up with the Jones’s”? Well the Jones’s are over their head in debt, their marriage is disintegrating, and the kids are being taught that material possessions supersede happiness in inter-personal relationships (and they will soon become apart of this cycle when they grow up!)
One of the biggest accomplishments of my life is helping my friend Amanda realize that the only reason she was in dentistry is because of the paycheck, she wasn’t happy about what she was doing for the rest of her life but she thought she could sacrifice that for a Luxury Sports 4x4 car and a white picket fence. After our multiple discussions she dropped out of dentistry school and is now going to the University of Florida and majoring in stain glass art, something she has loved to do her entire life.
Realize that it is not the size of your bank account that will hold you close on your death bed, it is those you love, the friends you have made, and the memories of a fulfilled and happy life that will make these days complete.

Need more to read on this topic? Read “Veronica decides to die,” by Paulo Coelho.


I read The Giver when I was in fifth grade, not because I was exceptional in any way but because it was mandated. I detested that book, and found it very boring. Then, in eighth grade, I saw it on a summer reading list and, for reasons unknown to myself, I read it again. This time I was a bit older, and understood more clearly what was being said.

I found your music, and then found this page, and when I saw Veronika Decides to Die sitting in your "favorite books" section my thoughts were not, I admit, much more than "My favorite artist's favorite book... maybe I'll like that."

So, sitting at home for the last few days while recovering from my surgery, I read Veronika Decides to Die. And at the end it struck me that for the first time in my life I'd read a book that meant something. I mean really, truly, MEANT something to me. I've spent years becoming increasingly jaded with the world and its conventions and here, all along, was a book that reaffirmed how I'd been feeling.

Having finished Veronika, and since I'm waiting for more reading material to arrive, I've decided to read through TMWG from the beginning. But I thought I should just take this small moment to thank you for being so real, and also for the indirect book recommendation.

God Bless,
M. Shotliff said…
Wow. I'm in a state of shock right now...it's as if your blog extracted everything I've been feeling for the last few months and wove intangible emotions into words.

At 18, I'm already terrified of falling behind. My first semester of college was spent out in the middle of nowhere, taking courses for a major I had carelessly threw myself into. From the beginning, I had a bad feeling about what I was getting myself into, but I dismissed it as homesickness. But no. By my second month, I detested the situation I had gotten myself into. It was during this experience that I stumbled upon your blog, and read every entry. It would be suicide to explain how, but it inspired me. Each day, I'd read a new entry, or re-read one I'd enjoyed before, and it got me through. Eventually, I decided to transfer and change my major.

I made the right choice in doing so. I'm now closer to home and my friends, and my fiance. Psychology is my current major, but my heart is in writing. Before I read this entry, I figured that writing is a hard business to break into, and that I might not have what it takes. And, even if I busted my butt enough to MAKE it work, the pay-off wouldn't be that excellent. But after reading what you said ("screw the system...do what you think is right"), I might change to writing after all. Or at least take up a minor in it.

The whole college experience has made me really unsure of who I am, what I really stand for, and what I ultimately want to do with my life. But most of all, I'm scared of falling behind. What if I don't figure out what I want to do soon enough to get my bachelor's in time to pay for my adult life? What will happen when I go to my ten year class reunion and I don't have a successful career, people working below me, a split-level house and a pool?

A part of me that knows better is raising its voice over my nagging doubts. It doesn't matter. Which is better: making close to nothing, but doing something I love OR breaking my back all my life at a job I'm not passionate about, all to make money I can't even take to my grave? Put into terms like that, it makes sense. Screw the status quo. Everyone grows in their own way, at their own speed. "Keeping up with the Joanses" isn't worth sending my youth too an early grave.

I'm still young. The world's still ahead of me, and there's plenty of time for me to figure stuff out.

I can't thank you enough for your insight! Stephen, your words are more powerful than you'll ever know, and I'm sure your many dedicated readers would agree. Thanks again. God bless!
John said…
The giver was one of the most impacting books I read as a child,
laurafee said…
i think The Giver is a spectacular book.

and i must admit, my mind went straight to Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" when you said invisible hand. it's interesting what Smith thinks, and to combine that with what you have said. Smith's idea is "to illustrate how those who seek wealth by following their individual self-interest, stimulate the economy as a secondary effect and thus assist society as a whole." Yet, that same hand is the hand pushing us to grow up too fast.

slow down world... you're only young once.

and i agree with sticking it to the man. don't let society dictate your life. you'll never have any fun, or get to be yourself. and i rather enjoy your Jones' statement. quite true, sad, but true.
Ashley Normand said…
For quite a while now, people have been asking me the same questions: "what's your career path?", "what are your plans for college?", etc. But i don't know. I'm not ready to plan out my future, but that invisible hand keeps pushing things on. It seems as if everyone around me knows exactly what they want.I feel like i'm being left behind...and i'm not even 15.

I would try to make up my mind about the future, but every career i thought about, every move i tried to plan, didn't seem to fit. It was like there was always something that said "no". I thought about being an artist, something told me i cant paint. musician? cant sing, and so on. At one point i just said to myself "forget this. there's no point making a choice i probably won't like later. i'll know what i want when i'm ready."

And as i read your blog, something clicked. It was like "finally someone gets it". Your blog made things even clearer for me. So thank you, Stephen, for writing this blog (and all the others), for understanding, for everything.
joel said…
I am 21 years old.
I'm on my fourth or fifth major in college.

I understand what you're saying, but the solution is much more gray. Do I go with my lifelong dream or hope that God will bless whatever I do, as long as I do it in his name? Is God's plan to lead me through these possibilities for life to teach me something? May He be the judge, for my actions make little sense even to myself.

Popular posts from this blog

New, easy, quick! Extend your life by 7 years!

'cellf' absorbed

true friends stab you in the front -oscar wilde