I was fifteen years old and my life was being turned inside out. My name and appearance hadn’t changed, but everything else about me had. I was a completely different person than I had been a year or two before. I don’t mean like when people go to college and re-create themselves with new nicknames and personalities; I mean something significant had gone on inside of me. I had become a Christian. I felt new. I felt alive.
I felt so good that I had to announce it to anyone who would listen, especially my closest friends and family. Everyone responded differently to the change in me—some with joy, others with resistance—but one conversation has always stood out to me.
I was talking with an older man whom I greatly respected, thrilled to explain my game plan for honoring God with my lifestyle, specifically my sexual purity. I tried to be calm about it, but it was always hard to hold my excitement in. As the words leapt from my tongue at an unnatural pace, I got the sense that he wasn’t as excited as I was. He was trying to listen quietly, but his facial expression responded before his mouth had a chance. He seemed halfway amused and halfway concerned.
He gave me a confused look and calmly asked, “Why are you taking life so seriously, young man? Why are you trying so hard to do everything right? Youth is the time when you mess up a lot, and that’s okay. Just enjoy yourself, learn from those mistakes, and get serious when you get older.”
I was stunned. Some might have taken that advice as liberating and honest, but that’s not how it felt to me. It felt constraining and misleading. I knew what he said was wrong, but I was a new Christian and I couldn’t quite put it into words.
I reflected on that experience for a long time, but instead of dampening my fire, I think it turned up the heat. I didn’t know much at the time, but I knew I couldn’t just sit around and wait. I had to get up and live.
OUR FAULTY LOGIC
Waking up is my least favorite part of every day. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a new day with new opportunities, but getting out of bed just never seems appealing. Ever. When it’s eleven at night, getting in bed is just an ordinary part of my day. But when it’s seven in the morning, staying in bed is like winning the lottery.
If you look at my iPhone, you’ll see that, 可悲, I have about sixteen alarms set in fifteen-minute increments starting just before 7:00 a.m. Why? Because there’s pretty much no chance I’ll get up after the thirteenth alarm. Those next three—numbers fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen—are my only chance to actually have a day.
Sometimes I think I could convince myself of anything in those first drowsy minutes of each morning. This was at its worst during my college years, when climbing out of bed in the morning felt like climbing Mount Everest without any legs. I could tell myself all kinds of lies, like, “Yeah, you should go to class, but will it really matter?” or “I know you’ve been late every day for the last three weeks, but what’s another day?” or “Maybe my friend will take the test for me. It’s worth the risk.” Sad, I know. That’s what I call 7:00 a.m. logic.
The lie I told myself was that staying in bed would be good for me. Somehow an extra five minutes or an extra hour would improve my life. When I’m wide awake it seems foolish, but in those first moments of each day it seems perfectly logical.
Can you imagine what the world would be like if nobody got up until they felt like it? Businesses would fold, schools would suffer, the government would be even more chaotic than it already is. Nobody would have enough time to do his job well; by the time everyone woke up, half the day would be gone. The truth is, no matter what time you decide to rise from your slumber, you only have twenty-four hours to work with. Hitting the snooze button doesn’t actually buy you any extra time. Your work just won’t get done.
Unfortunately, many of us have adopted 7:00 a.m. logic as a way of life. We sometimes call it procrastination. We don’t feel like doing something in the moment, so we decide to put it off until later. Sometimes we do it with small things, like taking out the trash, studying for a test, answering work e-mails, or returning Mom’s phone call.
But procrastination doesn’t actually solve anything, so it’s a bad idea to delay daily tasks until the last minute. It’s an even worse idea to delay life itself.
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?
Let’s be honest. Our culture doesn’t usually expect much from people until they’re old. (I’ll avoid offending anybody and let you define old.) According to many, youth isn’t the time for great responsibility or expectation. They say, “You’ll bear the burdens of responsibility for the rest of your life, so enjoy your youth while you can!” People seem to expect us to take all of life lightly until we reach that magical, arbitrary age of responsibility. Is it eighteen? Is it twenty-one? Is it thirty? Your guess is as good as mine.
I had a conversation with a waiter in Phoenix one night not too long ago. He wasn’t much younger than me, probably in his early twenties. He was really friendly from the moment I sat down, and we ended up having a good conversation. I asked him all the usual small-talk questions: Where are you from? How long have you worked here? Will you spit in my food?
As he responded to my questions, it was clear that he’d bought into the 7:00 a.m. logic. He told me that he had only lived in Phoenix for a few months. Before that he was in Nevada, before that California, and before that he lived on the East Coast. At this point I began asking myself how I’d describe him to a police sketch artist, just in case he was a fugitive of some sort.
But when I asked him why he moved around so much, here’s what he told me: “Just because. I don’t want to stay in one place and take on a bunch of responsibility. I’m young, man. It’s my time to just explore, not be bogged down with a bunch of commitments. Who knows, maybe I’ll find myself.”
I was sad but not surprised by his response. Of course there’s nothing wrong with moving a lot or self-discovery, but is there a season in our early twenties—or even our teens—when life doesn’t really matter? Should we hold off on all convictions, commitments, and seriousness until later?
CAN YOU TRUST IT?
I heard a song the other day that captured this perspective perfectly. The lyric went, “We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.”
I know taking on Taylor Swift hasn’t gone well for people in the past (do I need to remind you about Kanye?). But I’m willing to take the risk and examine what she says in her song “22.” I know it’s just a fun song, so I don’t want to overanalyze it. I think she has successfully captured the feelings of her listeners and the spirit of the age. But the perspective is all wrong.
What does it mean, as she says in the song, to “feel twenty-two”? The song celebrates the kind of carefree, light, and easy young adulthood that many of us dreamed about. Unfortunately, it suggests that this happiness and freedom is found in confused, sometimes miserable wanderings. There’s no direction, no responsibility—just chaotic fun. It’s that 7:00 a.m. logic again. Who has time for life when you feel twenty-two? Swift didn’t make this perspective up; we’ve been sold this logic over and over again. But can it be trusted?
Whether or not this 7:00 a.m. logic is trustworthy depends on who you are and what you were created for. If you were only created for self-satisfaction and enjoyment, then putting off real life until later may be the best choice. If you’re nothing more than another person looking out for yourself, then that young waiter’s logic may seem pretty sound. You can wait until later to wake up if you want to. But what if you were created for something more?
*This is an excerpt from the first chapter of Trip’s new book, 上升. Don’t forget, when you pre-order Rise by 一月 26, you’ll get a bunch of gifts for free, including a bonus track that didn’t make it on the album. Here are all the details to redeem your gifts: http://risebook.tv/preorder