My son Daniel said those words to me earlier this year, “I want to do something with my life that matters, Mom.”
He said these words as he neared the age of 20 and thought about his future. He had struggled with high school, not because of any intelligence issues, but because high school just “wasn’t his thing.” He wasn’t motivated at all to attend classes and strive for good grades. He dropped out at 17 and stayed out for a few months before reassessing his decision and re-enrolling back into high school.
Once he graduated high school, then he was faced with the “what-next” decision, and he opted to go to a community college as he started figuring out where he wanted his life to go. He attended classes for a year, but nothing was speaking to him in terms of a future. He had no idea what career he might want to pursue, and therefore, what classes might interest him. He wasn’t impressed by any jobs he heard about, and he wasn’t interested in going to college just to be in college. To Dan, college was a means to an end –something important needed to be at the end of his participation and he wasn’t seeing anything worthwhile.
At the same time as Dan was working through college, his older brother chose a military direction for the next four years of his life. His brother Mike applied for, and was accepted in the US Army. At his boot camp graduation, Dan saw that the path Mike had chosen had meaning. His brother was focused on a life that required discipline and work, and he had made great strides towards a successful future.
Dan realized that a similar path would matter in his life as well, and he began the process to be accepted as a recruit in the United States Marine Corps. He worked out and got his body in shape. He drove around to previous schools and other locations to get all his paperwork in order. He took the tests, both physical and educational, and he aced them all. Finally, Dan was sworn in as a recruit in the US Marines last month. And this morning, he left for recruit training, a three-month rigorous event that will be the toughest thing he’s ever done and will probably be the toughest he will ever have to do.
I am prouder of Dan than he can imagine. I’m proud of him for getting to where he is today. I’m proud of him for deciding to finish high school and for giving college the old “college try” and for then realizing school and “typical” job paths weren’t going to work for him. I am proud of Dan for choosing a path, as he said, because “I want to do something that matters, Mom.” Well, my parting words to my son Dan as he leaves on the first leg of his life adventure are, “you already have, son; you already matter.”