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In life, one must dream many dreams, because not all of ones dreams come true, despite our best efforts.
One of the greatest pieces of advice I impart to young people is that as we grow older, our outlook on life changes. We see life in a different way, partially due to our own personal psychological and intellectual development, as well as a direct result of what we have experienced through our life in general. I wish someone had told me when I was 16 that life was not what it appears to be when you’re young.
When we’re young, we plan out our entire lives to picture-perfect detail, and we imagine living in a world much like we’re accustomed to living in, only as adults. When I was 16, I thought for sure that I would one day graduate college with a masters degree, marry the very first girl I ever had feelings for, live in a perfect house, and start my own successful business with my best friend at the time, and right from the start, everything would then fall right into perfect place.
As I grew older, and subsequently wiser, I realized that life doesn’t always work out the way we want it to. Not all of our dreams come true. And despite our best efforts, planning, and hard work, even some goals and dreams are simply out of reach. Therefore, in life, one must always have many dreams, goals, and backup plans, just in case something goes wrong, or we are unable to accomplish all that we desire. And in life, things do go wrong; the ability to accept and overcome the obstacles of life is something that comes with time, and perseverance. Sometimes, we find that what we desire in life isn’t what we thought or hoped it would be once we obtain it, and more often, we are forced to wait until the time is right before we can obtain that which we desire.
When I was 16, I dreamed of being a firefighter. Then again, what 16-year-old male doesn’t want to become a firefighter? I signed up at the local volunteer fire department, passed the EMT exam at 18, then passed the firefighter exam shortly thereafter. After college, and years and years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance, I was able to get a paid job as an EMT in New York City. I learned many important life lessons from the experience, the likes of which I might not have learned any other way. Most importantly, I learned that just being a paid EMT was not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Sure, being an EMT is a very important job with an enormous responsibility, but I wanted more from life than what I was getting from being an EMT.
On the advice of Angie, I picked up a camera, and started taking pictures. At the same time, I also started to seriously pursue writing. The combination of those two reignited my earlier interest in computers and internet technology (one of the many subjects I studied while still in college), and they all culminated in a small business venture now known as TomSlatin.com.
Just before I graduated high school, at age 18, I went to meet a man who had dedicated his entire life to the study of philosophy. His advice to me was to, on an occasional basis, take a step back, and think about where you are in life, and what events and such it took to get you to this point in your life. Specifically, he said, take a moment to ask yourself, how did I get here, considering all you currently posses, where you are physically, and who in your life has had the greatest influence.
If I was able to go back in time and visit my 16-year-old self, I would tell my past self what the future really looks like. I would tell my past self that a lot of the dreams I thought were my destiny were only milestones, and that as soon as I turned 22, I would meet the woman who would soon become my best friend, my true love, my everything, and that her name would be Angie. I would tell my past self that the trials and tribulations over the next few years would pass, and in time, would fade into obscurity. But most importantly, I would tell my past self that with every door of opportunity that closes in front of us, at least one more opens, and that instead of sitting and watching life go by that there is always an opportunity to live, to learn, and to grow. In life, if you ever think that your journey is over, if there is ever more to learn, experience, or seek after, your journey is far from over. After all, life is a journey through an ever-changing world, not merely a destination.