Idealism and endurance

Somewhat off the beaten aesthetic path this morning . . .

I just read Rebecca Horton’s review of 500 Days of Summer. I hadn’t heard of this film before reading her blog entry and ended up adding the flick to my Netflix queue, but what intrigued me was her reflection on being a young adult in this present modern age:

    Young and naive, we wander our way into adulthood, without a true manual showing us which way points north. Sure, our parents have done this, and stumbled through along the way. But the world today is a different place, and while human nature is much the same there are new complications. We must decide for ourselves whether the dreams of our youth were mere figments of imagination, whether things like true love and fate really exist, or if it’s all mere chance. Nobody can really tell us how to do it until we live it and (by living it) know it for ourselves.

    . . . I long for the day when I can truly say “this makes sense.” Right now, it doesn’t make sense. Almost everything is complicated, and I feel like an oyster without a shell. I’m tired of complicated relationships, I’m tired of putting effort into projects and ideas with seemingly little outcome, and i’m tired of always feeling like my deepest hopes will never come to pass.

I have the same desire for a lack of complication [read “sin”] in life, but have cynically resigned myself to this reality. You might remember that I met Rebecca at IAM’s Encounter conference in February. In our very brief conversation it became obvious we harbored some very similar ideals as they relate to culture and aesthetics.

One of my favorite lines from all of the Gilmore Girls episodes eludes to the idealism college builds up in a student and the subsequent naivety said student then carries into the “real” world. The simplistic and selfish motive of profit, the inefficient and stubborn fixture that is bureaucracy and the apathetic collective that makes up our culture condemn most of these dreams before they can find their footing.

However, one of the more significant things I deduced following my own graduation was that the university experience is more a test of endurance than anything else. This has proven to be one of the more accurate, even if unintended, lessons from my college days. Life, I’m learning, is much the same way. Obstacles abound for most of us whose last names aren’t in the papers on a regular basis thanks to family wealth or fame.

My wife is suggesting, as I type, that I’m hardly a young adult anymore. Granted, I earned my degree six years before Rebecca did; that is, I’m 32 now (Though I rarely remember this fact when my knees aren’t bothering me. Or when I’m not paying bills.). However I still feel like a young adult. This may largely be on account of the unusual career, missions mobilization, that has dominated my years since graduation. This choice was an end in and of itself, but it was also — we hoped anyway — a doorway to other dreams down the road.

And it may still be such a doorway. At the moment, however, the door seems to open into a long corridor without any other portals to choose from in view. This is where that lesson in endurance proves useful. The wife and I will keep our dreams and ideals — which change little by little as we acquire the wisdom that comes with passing out of young adulthood, with passing years — in front of us and look for the right opportunity to knock on.


Image from Wikipedia.

About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

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