A few days ago, I stood outside of a library in Dublin with some friends, shivering in the autumn breeze. An old man wearing a nice suit coat branded with the library’s name stepped outside for a cigarette. He asked where we were from, what we were doing in Dublin, what we were studying. After telling him I am an advertising major, he replied:
“Oh, so you’re studying to be a liar.”
I smiled awkwardly and emitted the unsure-of-myself sigh that tends to escape from me whenever I am thrown off by someone I do not know well. After another moment of polite small talk, we shuffled along on our way and left him to his post at the library.
Similar interactions have occurred a lot to me lately. With graduation looming in the near distance, my age suddenly creeping up on me and these past four years of college somehow racing to an end, I have been inwardly contemplating my plans for the future often and clarifying just exactly what it is I hope to do with my life. I struggle just like any other Gen Y’er with my indecisiveness, my self-induced anxiety, my conflicting desires and tendency to space out. But when faced with another person, typically an older and “wiser” person, who bluntly laughs in my face when I tell them I want to get into marketing or advertising, I don’t yet have the courage to stand up to them. I don’t yet have the confidence to explain to them where I hope to end up. But now that I think about it, why should I? Why should I stand there and calmly and reasonably map out for them my life goals, and what steps I must take to reach them? so that they can re-evaluate their initial judgment while I make some desperate attempt to change their minds?
Why tell, when you can show? Actions speak louder than words. I take in these slight criticisms and objections in the face of my future and my choices, and let them fuel me to prove these people wrong. Rather than begging them to accept my generation and plead for some confidence in our ability, maybe it’s better to simply show. Sometimes words cannot be enough. Sometimes you need to flip someone’s world upside down in order to show them that you were different than they thought all along.
I am not studying to be a liar. I am not studying to become some marketing guru who will deceitfully trick you into buying beauty products or high-end luxury items or food that will contribute to your eventual heart disease. I am studying to learn how to communicate with people in a positive way, how to increase their awareness of causes that spark something within them to do good, how to nurture their existing desires to give back to the world around them. And I hope that one day, I will be able to prove that, rather than simply speak it.
I doubt that man at the library will remember our conversation. I doubt he realized how heavy his comment actually was. I doubt he knows how much he has added to my motivation to prove him and all the others wrong. Suddenly graduation doesn’t seem like such an imminent threat, but more like an open door, with a world of possibility awaiting me.