Who do you want to grow into? / by Will Ringland

We all have some sort of plan, even a vague one, that gets us moving in one direction or another. Mine was college > chemistry degree > graduate school > engineering > fancy job. And that was pretty much it. That’s not really much of a growth path and it didn’t really go according to plan. I didn’t finish the chemistry degree after some bad stuff happened with the department in college. I didn’t really like the graduate programs I could find for the degree I ended with. And I got rejected from graduate schools and every job but one by graduation.

The plan very quickly became work that job, which is all I had, then graduate school. Graduate schools love returning students with jobs.

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None of this ever materialized. I kept working that job, one I didn’t really understand but seemed to be pretty good at and sort of settled into a pattern of work and the occasional social gathering and a lot of time writing online (some things don’t change).

And that was about it?

Yeah, that was it. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? I mean, I had a well paying job, a long term girlfriend where neither of us wanted kids, an apartment in a city we both liked, and... that was about it.

Plan fulfilled?

I was a full-fledged human?

When you look at the expected narrative - college, job, marriage, house, retire, die - it is pretty dreadful. And if you don’t want children, ends pretty rapidly. So I just had to work until I died. Wooo...

And that was about it

I coasted for years until things just sort of drifted away. My girlfriend and I, having started dating in college when we were just Porto-humans, drifted apart from sort of a benign neglect and slow descent into in-shared interests. When she and I finally broke up, after a house, three cats, and nearly 9 years of amalgamated life cruft, I was left with a bedroom I painted black and two surly cats.

Well shit. That was a piece of the life puzzle no longer in place. How do meet people again? IN college you have very little trouble finding people when have some common thread. Classes, dorm rooms, lunch halls, parties all provide an immediate, albeit shallow, connection upon which futures can build.

What do you do when you no longer have that?

No really, what do you do?

I didn’t have anything substantial then. I didn’t even have much interest in my previous hobbies at the time. I had zero confidence in anything I was or did, and I certainly didn’t know where the crap I was supposed to be going now. In the short term, this is not how we find a life partner. In the long term, this is not how to find our humanity.

IT was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish'd to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined...

The thing that a project of this nature gives us, and why I think it beneficial for everyone to try, is that it gives us a thing to build that has some meaning to us. It isn’t just “be a better person” its “I’m going to be more sincere. The former is a non-specific state where the latter is something we can measure.

But how does that lead us anywhere?

To get anywhere, we have to pick a path. Any path. Where I was 5 years ago was what looked like the end of the path and a major support structure had blown up. I had no ideas how to go about fixing it, or even that anything needed fixing. Directionless. Path less.

After encountering Franklin’s project through some serendipitous reading, stole his path for myself. I mean, he seemed pretty successful - newspapers,libraries, the post office, negotiating treaties. Yeah, I could totally negotiate a treaty...

We are frequently asked, as children, what do we what to be when we grow up. A Virtue Project flips that over and asks

Who do you want to grow into?

The point of all this - the virtues, the tracking failures, the reflecting, the constant wonder about how necessary it is to skip that extra glass of whiskey - the point of all the work is to find our way to growth. What that growth is depends so much on what matters to the individual person but we all have some idea of what that means for us.

Taking traits from the person we wish to be, defining, and refining them is how we get there. The ones we choose matter less than us just choosing one or some of them. Franklin’s were packaged neatly and dropped into my lap just when I needed them.

So [which ones do you need] (https://wrestlingwithfranklin.com/giant-list-of-virtues/) to start growing into the person you want to be?