There’s an automotive warehouse in the north end of the city backing on a field that for
a few weeks every summer
is full of daisies. My father
has his lunch out there. The warehouse,
his twenty-year stint; clocks stretched around his legs, a pay cheque over his
mouth. The years are showing, responsibilities wrecking
Such a moth-life is not for me— remember how we’d talk? … all our plans were promises not to be
like our fathers. No direction
to go, just a finger of a
man telling us which way not to.
We were going to be free, dashed
away by any wind that came
along. No padlocked love, no tokens. We said we were afraid of mousegrey interiors, of men who limped,
of buildings where they paid you to age.
So how did it go? … one of my arms has turned into a pen. I’m blind now but there’s braille. I build a better world on paper
then sell it. Someone told me you were living in an air
conditioner, just counting the money. Here’s to you. We must have been crazy. Lucky us, useless
boys, found cures for all our dreams.
Passion can be defined as “a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything”. Growing up, many factors played into future career/education choices: money, hours, work environment, demand, and personal preference. However, something that was not spoken of a lot was passion. Discovering my true purpose seemed like an exceedingly daunting task until I took part in a leadership and changemaker camp. During the camp, purpose was set out for me as what would fit in a Venn diagram of ‘what you like’, ‘what you’re good at’, and ‘what this world needs’. Finding an issue in this world that you believe needs to be solved, and utilizing your gifts and abilities to aid in solving it, is what passion looks like in action. Often times, people ignore their need for passion and purpose in this world and especially in their work/career. So many people live lives of eat, sleep, work, repeat; keep their bodies in a somewhat healthy condition, and make money to pay bills. Family and friends and even hobbies can also play major roles in these people’s lives, but often work is nothing more than a way to make money.
Useless Boys stands out as an incredibly impactful poem to me. At this age, the looming decision of what we want to do with the rest of our lives is quite heavy and quite prevalent. Many of us are faced with a choice between something that we will love and something that will pay well. Financially, becoming a doctor or lawyer stands out as a dream career, while emotionally and mentally, artists and writers capture our attention. In a whirlwind of information and influence, it is our job, at an extremely young and vulnerable age, to decide. Watching adults all around us with “clocks stretched around [their] legs, a pay cheque over [their] mouths,” overwhelms so many of us. We have no desire to be miserable and shackled to our jobs, but we also have no desire to scrimp and save just to get through each month because we want a more desirable work life.
The last sentence of this poem hit home most effectively. At this age, we may have dreams higher than the sky, and more far reaching than the sun, but older people often do not. Why do these dreams disappear? Why do we turn from idealists to realists? When Barry Dempster comments, “lucky us, useless boys, found cures for all our dreams,” it truly only motivates me to avoid these aforementioned “cures”at all costs. There should be no need, no desire to “cure” ourselves of dreams and aspirations. Obviously living until age 200 or making millions a day without working are a bit implausible, but within reason, why give up on our dreams? Why allow ourselves to become like the men spoken of in the poem: eat, sleep, work, repeat? Dempster speaks of his dreams that he discussed with his childhood pals when he says, “we were going to be free, dashed away by any wind that came along.” This desire communicates to me that these boys were set on doing what they loved every day. They were willing to take risks, leaps in the dark, and seize any opportunity that arose. They were willing to push themselves out of their comfort zones, experiment, try new things, and genuinely experience the world. Seeing the way that Dempster portrayed their final resolutions truly saddened me. Again, where does the need to cure this passion and purpose come from? Why let go of such a positive motivation in one’s life?
As I have grown older, thinking about what I want to do for the rest of my life has become more and more of a real challenge that I am faced with. Deciding on classes that I needed to take, skills that I needed to enhance, and schools that I needed to apply to has been a cause of a lot of stress due to its inexplicable importance: these choices decide what I am going to do for the rest of my life. Hearing statistics about how many times the average person changes their mind on career options also became an extremely frequent theme over the years. Constantly being bombarded with different messages and advice on my decision was quite overwhelming; I felt as though there was a never ending storm spinning in and around my mind. As a small child, I often failed to take notice of people’s general attitude towards their day to day jobs. Of course a random cranky sales clerk or nurse might catch me off guard, but it was never something that I took time to consider or even recognize. As I have gotten older and more mature, my parents have become more comfortable discussing their work with me, and their attitudes towards it. I would see more articles on it, hear more complaints, and notice more upturned faces in the work world: yikes.
At this point in time, I had about a year left of high school and, therefore, a year left to decide what it was that I wanted to do. I felt like I was drowning in my decision and the constant plethora of words thrown my way in accordance with it. And, just to top it off, I had no idea what I wanted to be. I remember, so vividly, seeing, as Barry Dempster describes, “the years… showing, responsibilities wrecking [their] heart[s].” Disheartened, and burdened, I confronted my parents one afternoon in October. I explained my situation and feelings towards The Big Decision. Without recognizing it, they were able to help me go through ‘what you like’, ‘what you’re good at’, and ‘what this world needs’ and therefore help me find my purpose. Although I am still quite young, I never plan on getting a job in a “building where they [pay] me to age,” and become shackled to my job.
Dempster’s poem brings to light a remarkably important epidemic in this world: the loss of passion and purpose that accompanies age, particularly in the workplace. I believe that in illustrating these boys’ shift in attitude, he portrays the importance of holding onto our dreams, staying dedicated to our purpose, and living every day to be as happy as we can. When the timeline of these diminished ambitions is laid out in front of us, it is easy to tell ourselves that we will never let it happen to us. Putting this theory to work is a different story and can be quite a bit more challenging. Pursuing our goals is a never ending task and that is the beauty of it. Although we may be able to feel accomplished when we achieve a goal, there is always more to keep working on. Continue working harder, being happier, becoming healthier, and so on and so on. I believe that as we avoid searching out cures for our dreams, we will be able to grasp them tighter and tighter each day. As we work each and every day to be “free, dashed away by any wind that [comes] along,” we will come closer and closer to our goals and experience genuine happiness each step of the way.