The end of Howard Zinn’s letter of advice to James Harmon for his Book Take My Advice is a single sentence with a completely new idea for me. In my life I have always felt pressure to live in ways that my parents, co-workers, employers, friends, and one day possibly children would find impressive. I have always wanted to make my parents proud and have always tried to live up to pre-set standards, and in this has had negative affects for me with extra amounts of pressure on my actions. In the last line of his letter Zinn writes, “Live in such a way that your children and grandchildren will be proud of you.” At the time that I read that I left myself a note saying, “Don’t just strive to be someone your children would look up to, but live that life.”
How I have interpreted this quote is that the important idea for Zinn is to develop an identity that does not stand of injustice, does not accept the status quo, and pushes for a life of independence that is interesting, unique, and creative. The impression of Zinn’s message is that children and grandchildren will not be impressed by stories of how one studied for years to become a lawyer or work for a large corporation to make big bucks. Nor will a child be fascinated with a story of a climb up a corporate latter that encouraged suites and sacrificing family time for weekend business calls.
Zinn’s quote is difficult to unpack and accept because striking out on ones own in a creative journey is difficult and risky in more ways than just financial. The corporate world of suites and increasing workloads for fewer employees is a path that many choose because we often find that we need to make personal sacrifices to provide a lifestyle that will provide opportunities for the rest of our family. This is the greatest challenge for me at this point of my life. I am not sure which direction to go, and how to live a life that can provide for a family financially, without taking away from the relationships that I have. I do know that I can fill my life with interesting thoughts and actions that will help me live a full life regardless of my career choices. At this point I can only strive to build my mind so that I build creativity in my free time to help me find the full and interesting life that Zinn writes of.