What Should I Do With My Life?

Po Bronson
Random House, New York, 2002

Trajectories of work life scatter like free radicals, which makes this book a potential idea trove for writers who collect from the real world around them for believable personalities and inner life questions. And many writers do. Bronson is equal sleuth, gossiper, personal psychiatrist and intriguing writer as he delves deeper into backstory reasons and personality quirks that call to the business of nurturing the spirit; not just the wallet.

There’s the self-proclaimed Phi Beta Slacker continuing a search for the audience excitement and acclaim of an early ballet career in the thin air of high-paying corporate work. To her, he inserts his definition of the intellectual nuances of intensity vs. passion for work.

There’s the man who worked his way up from the proverbial mailroom to highly successful financial salesman. He brushes shoulders with co-workers and clients his childhood had not emotionally prepared him for, though it did pepper his social life with very interesting women he was prepared for. He gave everything up to be a bookkeeper for a school district, forcing him to learn, “you can’t go home again”. Nor do they want you. So off he went to work his way back up again. At the end he is settled as an expat and rooming with a foreign girlfriend, theoretically on his way to living happy ever after. Bronson mused with him that perhaps “being an outsider is what someone might need to feel at home”.

The first and last story are bookends of men who found a place in life by openly allowing their spiritual self to be foremost in the choice. First is the young man who is hand-picked by the Dalai Lama to religious service though he earns his earthly needs by daily work in Phoenix, Arizona. The last is a Native American who grew up on tribal land and is now an international venture capitalist for micro-businesses changing people’s lives from being hungry to contributing to their tribe with a better herd of cattle.

More than once Bronson is the spark that lights the flame and sends his subjects off to new adventure simply by listening to them and asking questions that provoke them to think in a new way. He is a journalist who becomes involved far enough to insert his own life to justify his actions and tell the ballet dancer, “I think I’ll find some themes in your crazy scrabble.”

His musings, personal conclusions and subjects are worth the read. The only watered-down criticism I can give is his reasoning to deliberately focus on his generation X. He believes it is either too late for all baby boomers or they have figured it out. He’s wrong on both counts, but I can’t fault him. It’s always easier to look around and back rather than forward. And few want experience from a parent’s generation. I think he said that, too.

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