Is this what “you can do anything” meant?

Disclaimer: This post is probably was to wordy and self indulgent. My only defense is that Dawson’s Creek is now on Netflix Instant Play.

My sophomore year I had a professor who said that the crux of coming of age in the 1960’s was finding your “authentic self”. He, along with his generation, thought founding out who he was would be his path to happiness, love, fulfillment etc. It wasn’t so much “be all that you can be” or “you can be anything” as much as “who the hell am I?”.  I guess that’s what reading all those French existentialist authors with the Harvard set will get you.

I think a defining difference in my generation, is that there is less of a focus on who you are as opposed to what you do. This could relate to jobs or status, relationships or adventure. It’s a move from internal to external, but it also signifies a shift from the incontrollable (your soul) to the theoretically controllable (your actions and decisions). Perhaps even people’s self-conceptions have reformations.

A large portion of us grew up hearing “you can do anything”. Parents, teachers and PBS television characters chanted it to us until it became a mantra, a motivator and finally a measure of our success.

Just like my professor wrote in his diary and obsessively talked to his friends about finding himself, I constantly evaluate what I am doing. Wondering if I live up to the ideal of doing anything I put my mind to. Something I think most of my friends would agree is almost impossible if you don’t know what you want to do.

Because when people said that, I always thought of doing something great. Becoming a version of myself that was meaningful and exciting and more. A doctor. A famous actress.  My lackluster examples prove the validity of my last paragraph, I don’t know what I want or what “anything” means to me.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “you can do anything” and thinking that instead of meaning you can do something great it could mean you can survive anything. Whether that means a boring job, or feeling overwhelmed or mediocre, or being in a really scary situation. That could be a more powerful message.  There might be more strength in that. Maybe that is what everyone was trying to tell me all along anyways?

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