Don't Ask Me Why Excerpt: Self-Shaping
Thing is, you spend the first 20-odd years of your life prepping for the way. You’re finding out and figuring out, making calculated realizations about who you are. Do I suck at math? Do I like dudes or girls? Both? Neither? Am I cool? Whether the answers to that shit are grounded in reality or based on a confluence of unprecedented events is NBD.
Did you fail that test on systems of equations because you had a killer flu and missed half of the systems of equations unit? Or, did you fail because the fateful combination of your father’s spermatozoon and your mom’s ovum—aka you—just sucks at algebra. Sure, it’s an important distinction, but the answer matters less than the significance we intuitively ascribe to it. At some point, it’s no longer useful to debate the question—the source of your algebraic futility. What is just is.
So, we spend the first 20-or-so years answering this stuff. What do I like? What defines me? Who am I? What do I want to be? What’s my favorite? Why? And, we are answering these questions, bit by bit by granular bit. We’re incessantly self-shaping—play-dohing ourselves.
But, and here’s kind of the really big thing for 21-year-old Charlie Rider: for the first 20 years you don’t ever have to act on these answers. Not really, right? OK, you’ll have to choose what you’re gonna say to the world on your Facebook profile. Maybe you pick a high school elective. Maybe you flip to ESPN instead of the Food Network or the Food Network instead of whatever’s playing Maury when you turn on the TV. But, you’re still able to change your mind, maybe.
We incessantly self-shape for the first chunk of our existence and finally we’ve got all these—essentially—self-created inputs. Then we get a list of potential outputs. Jobs, partners, houses, 2nd houses, vacation destinations. You’ve got to act on your shaping. And in a relatively short period of time, say 3 to 8 years after your 20th birthday, you’ve got a ton of outputs to definitively apply all those self-shaping inputs to. Don’t fuck up, because once you act, it will be exponentially harder to change your mind. The do-overs run dry.