Give some of your money and some of your time to nonprofit groups. I recommend choosing a local organization like a shelter or museum so you can see the direct benefit of your participation, rather than a celebrity-supported cause – they already get plenty of attention.
Whether it’s tasting a new food, trying a new sport, or venturing to a new place, you won’t know how you really feel about it until you give it a shot.
I want to be honest with you, because there is a lot of fear mongering clouding the choices you are going to face. I’ll admit it’s a fact that some people are able to use drugs without fundamentally destroying their lives; however, you must assume that you are not one of them. You can’t know how you will react to various drugs unless you try them, but the catch is that if you’re part of the majority who can’t control their usage, trying drugs will send you down a spiral from which it will be all but impossible to recover. Every drug user alters his or her life’s potential; drugs rob you of ambition and disconnect you from your identity. This is one of the very few lessons that I hope you do not have to learn through experience. The thought of your tiny perfection being usurped by chemical addiction is too much for me to bear.
Subconscious belief that there is a line you cannot cross -a line that separates the realistic from the impossible- is what keeps talented people from achieving success. If you want to write the great American novel, star in a Tom Stoppard play, or be point guard for the Sparks, just research the usual steps needed to do those things, then embark upon the journey. Whether you succeed or not will be based on your talent, not your drive; that’s respectable.
Dances, campfires, and archery: It’s independence without responsibility.
Get off your butt and lend a hand. Providing active service helps others and makes your life richer. Clear the table, water the plants, cook dinner, babysit: I can’t explain exactly why, but I promise that you will feel incrementally better about yourself and your life every single time you get up and do something for someone else.
Your assumptions about this will change as you age. That’s normal. A picket fence lifestyle that once seemed torturously confining might one day seem comfortably secure; a personality that once struck you as overly emotional may grow sympathetic. What you think you want to have or be at any given moment isn’t really important; what matters is that you are present in your own life, considering it and shaping it with the force of your will.
I hope you are able to fend off cynicism as long as possible to keep your youthful passion sincere and viable.
People will repeatedly tell you that to be truly happy, you must find a job that you love. I sincerely hope that you do. But in case you have to take a less-than-ideal position to pay the bills, there are some things you should know. Avoid any job that you find morally objectionable—you can’t reconcile your values with tasks you find repugnant. But you can earn rewards from a job that you find only mildly tolerable. When you are presented with a challenge and use your skills to meet it, you will feel accomplished, regardless of the task. That feeling is universally valid and undeniably admirable; embracing it will make work a more rewarding experience in the day to day, even if it doesn’t feed your soul.