“You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.”
I found it kind of ironic that A. chose this book to read at bedtime last night. We’ve read this book plenty of times in the past but I’ve never really paid attention to the “other message” in the book. When this story is referred to or given as gifts to young children and new graduates, it is always done so because of the positive message: you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. Obviously, this is the main point of the story and exactly what Dr. Seuss intended his readers to understand. What stuck out to me last night, however, were the few times where Dr. Seuss reminds the reader that the journey through life is not always easy. He refers to the difficult decisions, the uncertainty, and the disappointments that are inherent in the pursuit of any goal in life.
“I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen to you.”
At this point in my life I feel that I am challenged beyond my breaking point. I am surviving the best I can and the only thing that keeps me going is knowing that the end is almost near. In 6 months I will have met the requirements of my degree and I’ll finally earn that MD behind my name. Despite this end goal, my mind feels lost about the decisions I make, the priorities I set, the relationships I make, and the choices I face for my future. I may be working towards one goal, but everything else just feels so unknown.
“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. but mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?”
The question I ask myself lately is exactly this: “How much can I lose? How much can I win?” And, if I lose, will it have been worth all the risk? Dr. Seuss knows just what to say. He knows that we will all reach this point in our lives. We’ve travelled so far down a certain path only to find ourselves in these dark, recessed places that we may not have anticipated. We are all faced with the decision of whether to continue or to quit. Perhaps the point that Dr. Seuss is trying to make is that asking these questions is very normal and very appropriate when we find ourselves lost, but maybe quitting is not the best option.
“You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
He doesn’t deny that we might fail; that we might head in the wrong direction and lose control. He even goes so far to talk about the horrible place we find ourselves in. He calls it the “waiting place,” but I would argue that he just called it this for simplicities sake. We get to the place where we don’t want to go on, where we don’t want to work anymore, or where we simply just can’t keep it together. In essence we are “waiting” because we’re doing nothing to change. Dr. Seuss warns about staying in the waiting place too long out of fear of remaining there forever.
The journey is not always easy and the challenges can sometimes be harder than we think. Dr. Seuss knows that he can’t write a story about succeeding in life and “moving mountains” without addressing the reality that there will be times we fail and want to give up. We will reach those slumps and scary places that we never imagined we would be; but despite the setbacks, it is still possible to reach the goals we set for ourselves.
“Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
Despite all these messages of difficulty and failure that Dr. Seuss incorporates into his story, this is not the message that the readers take away from the book. The story is known by everyone to be a great motivation and it has become an icon of inspiration in our society. Maybe the message that Dr. Seuss is sending is that when it’s all said and done, it’s not the challenges or the disappointments or the failures that we will dwell on and remember. Rather, it is the whole story – the big picture – that we will remember in the end. As long as we give it our best effort, accept the setbacks, and stand-up tall and brush off our knees after falling down, the positive will always overcome the negative and hopefully make all those setbacks worth the effort.
Dr. Seuss knows just what to say and just how to say it.
And somehow, my 3 year old knew that I needed to read that story last night, too.
All quotations taken from “Oh The Places You’ll Go, By Dr. Seuss