OPINION: You can peak by following your dreams

SEAN STROUD, Contributor

A problem I find myself and a lot of my peers facing today is feeling an unwarranted lack of accomplishment. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but for me it’s a sort of innate fear that no matter what I’m working toward or have gotten done, my efforts aren’t enough and I could be doing more. While on some level I am thankful for the fire under my feet that keeps me moving, I’m often left burnt out with an unwavering feeling of restlessness.

I don’t mean to sound like a crotchety old man when I say this, but I blame social media and our fetishization of celebrities. At this point, it doesn’t matter if you make ceramic plates or if you’re a modern-day blacksmith, there are 10 different people on TikTok with an audience already doing what you do, but better. That’s incredibly discouraging to anyone aiming for something other than a desk job, especially when compared to my great-grandpa’s generation when you could reasonably claim that you were the “Best Shot this side of Sachse” with pride.

Headshot of Sean Stroud
Sean Stroud (RORY MOORE)

I’ve found that while there is the occasional wunderkind that seems to tumble out of the womb wielding a violin or donning a pair of tap shoes, more often than not the successful people that I look up to have all stuttered and stumbled along the path to where they are today. Hearing their stories and what they’ve had to go through to get to where they are reminds me that I’m doing just fine and makes it easier to cut myself some slack. The most immediately impactful person that comes to mind for me is Stan Lee, may he rest in power.

To my surprise, Lee had put in around 20 years at Timely Comics and was in his late 30s before it became what we know today as Marvel Comics. He began as an office assistant at 16, filling inkwells and fetching lunches. When the residing editor left for DC Comics in 1941, a 19-year-old Lee was saddled with the position and fully devoted himself to building up the company, even continuing to submit stories after being drafted to the U.S. Army and on one occasion breaking into the base’s mailroom to avoid missing a due date.

Dedication and perseverance make success stories just as pressure and carbon make diamonds. One of the men I model myself after, Bill Burr, often responds to viewer emails on his podcast to give advice, and a recurring concern is whether it’s too late for them to chase a dream. Burr, despite being perceived by most as an angry, ranting bald man, is always resoundingly supportive and is completely candid when he reminisces back to his days spent working in warehouses and nights spent sleeping on couches.

“There’s no way you lose when you go after a dream. You don’t. It always leads to something better,” Burr said on an episode of the “Monday Morning Podcast.”

As a warehouse worker myself, I can say that I’ve had horrible periods of self-doubt when I felt like I wasn’t doing enough to pursue my passion and that regardless of how hard I tried, it would never pan out for me. Hearing that one of the people I look up to most has gone through the same if not worse conditions and came out on the other side of it successfully doing what he loves is reassuring, to say the least. It makes it easier for me to take a breath and relax.