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I was stuck in that post-high school/not going to college rut that i suppose a lot of people go through. No direction, no real goals to speak of, partying too much, working too little and of course, being in my late teens and early twenties, feeling sorry for myself and stuck in my situation. I had a pretty serious problem with drinking and weed, I started using at around 14 and it quickly became an all day everyday life consuming habit. My hangup on it caused me to barely get through high school, have trouble holding down a job and caused a general feeling of apathy and depression that i just felt i couldn't shake. I stumbled through life getting and losing jobs for several years and living with/off my parents with the notion that I wanted more but for some reason the inability to see what i had to do to get there.
One day my father and i were talking and he said something to me that I really wasn't expecting. he told me that my life was mine to live and he was done trying to guide me towards what he thought was best. This came as a surprise because he was so often the one giving me a hard time about my decisions and trying to get me out of this mindset. Then he said the words that have stuck with me ever since: " Son, there's an amazing world out there, full of nothing but opportunities in every direction, you're young enough to take advantage of all of them. You can go and see and do things others only dream of doing. You can build a life you want with the people you want and not just end up somewhere or with someone. You have the world at your fingertips, its yours for the taking. But, if you cant give up drinking or smoking to go see and do the things that make life worth living, then i just feel sorry for you."
That hit me like a brick, and everything snapped into focus, I took a few days to sort things out internally and realized just how much I had been limiting myself. i stopped doing drugs and drinking, and got myself a job that i love traveling the world. Six years later I'm happily married with a promising career and a ton of great experiences, it took a moment to listen to him but its affected every day of my life since.
Anything by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is thought provoking. For those unfamiliar he was imprisoned in Stalin's GULAG Labor camp system for a decade after WW2 and wrote of the inhuman conditions in the camps and utter madness of the USSR police state. Many have disagreed with some of his political conclusions, but it would be hard to argue that the man did not have a profound handle on suffering, what's important in life and the human condition. Some titles if anyone's interested:
One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich- semi-autobiographical stream of consciousness account of one prisoner's day in the camp.
Cancer Ward- studies a group of Soviet citizens from all walks of life in Stalin's USSR undergoing treatment for various forms of cancer, the ward is a microcosm for Soviet society. this may be Solzhenitsyn's most profound work.
The GULAG Archipelago- Solzhenitsyn's master work, his own story of arrest, imprisonment and release combined with the input of over 200 other prisoners paints a complete picture of the breadth of oppression rampant in the USSR during those years. It is a massive work including his story, the stories of others and many essays and asides about various aspects of the camps and the system which made them possible.
All amazing reads .