Behind a stark, stoic desk sat a stark, stoic man. In front of him: a younger man, much less comfortable in the office filled with deep mahogany furniture.
The elder of the two dogmatically laid out the other's life for him.
"You will attend one of these three [Ivy-league] Schools"
"You will enter one of these three [high-paying, upper-echelon] professions"
"You will drive one of these three luxury cars..." and, of course, this is when the Audi pulls up providing the perfect option #4.
What Audi did well was identify a foundational paradigm shift in the mindset of this generation: we're willing to take the chance behind door #4. We are making choices that dumbfound our elders, but seem natural to us, albeit a bit risky from time to time. But that's what excites us. We know this is our life, and we're set on living.
One year ago, I walked - or rather flew - through my door #4. I left the comfort of my hometown, my friends, family, managerial position in retail, roommates and culture to fly to the other side of the world and teach English in Taiwan for a year.
What I learned in that year I will carry with me the rest of my life. My view of culture (both mine and foreign), and my view of myself altered entirely. The details of how and what are chronicled on my blog, but I'm not here to bore you with that.
What I'm here to say is this: the rules of the game have changed. Door #4 is not only a more viable option, but a more accessible one.
On the rise in the US, and already widely accepted in much of Europe and Australia, is the gap year. This is the idea of taking a break from life and doing like I did: getting out. It's generally before entering university, after graduation, or occasionally in between (though the "adult gap year" is on the rise as well).
As the world gets smaller every day, and technology makes life and communication more mobile, leaving for a year (or 6 months, or a month) becomes easier.
There's increasing research that the "gap year" has unseen benefits that employers are taking notice from. Economist.com reported on researchers finding an association between those who have lived abroad and an elevated level of creativity.
But here's my beef with the "gap year" mentality. It leaves the traveler with the idea that the year is a "break" from her/his life.
Let me tell you, that year is as much a part of your life as your 4 years in university. Or getting hired at your dream gig.
Over at The Drift, we have a saying: The Journey is the Destination.
We've been programed to think our life is a succession of events: High School; University; Career; Family; Retirement; Death.
If I can encourage readers to one thing, it's this: Don't be afraid to do something different. Something you never thought you'd do. And when you do, remember what you do along the way to your "life goals (or "destinations")" is just as much of your life as those big events. Because Life isn't about the big events; life started yesterday, and yesterday is gone. Don't wait for some far off event to start living.
More than any point in history, any generation before us, the door on option number four has blown wide open. The rules of normalcy have changed, and the rise of information and technology have given us the keys to our life. Take them and use them. Find what you're passionate about through your door #4, then walk, no, fly through and live your life.
Because Life is a Journey, friends. And the Journey is the Destination.
[Photo found here through Flickr's Creative Common]