Common Ground: The cost of having guts

Nick Bratcher

A popular kids show on Nickelodeon when I was growing up used to pose the question, “Guts, do you have it?” as its catchphrase.

These days, I feel like the more appropriate question for our generation would be, “Anxiety, do you have it?”

If you’re like me, the answer is likely a resounding yes.

I attribute this to a societal problem. We value invulnerability and denounce weakness. We want people with guts, grit and determination.

It’s why people buy homes they can’t afford and spend money on cars they have no business driving.

It’s all about the image.

I call it “keep-it-togetherness.”

You need to have that part-time job, smoking hot boyfriend or girlfriend, get good grades, join an honor society, find time to go to the gym, volunteer for the local homeless shelter and read Faulkner in your spare time to improve your scholarly pursuits.

But is that real life?

I can’t tell you the number of fellow college kids I walk by every day that look like someone just set their house on fire.

They’re off to their next club meeting or they’re late to their study group after volunteering at some organization that will change the world.

But they always assure me that they’re fine if I ask if they’re too busy—as their frazzled eyes glaze over with the weight of their to-do list.

And for what purpose?

Why can’t you be vulnerable? Why is the rat race to get ahead all there is to life?

I’m not saying that volunteering, getting good grades or any of those pursuits are bad things in and of themselves.

But they show something much deeper in the consciousness of our society.

Do you know why you hate it when your significant other tries to teach or explain something to you that you don’t understand?

Or do you know why you hate to admit when your parents are right?

We simply can’t be vulnerable. We hate it when we have to admit that we don’t have it all figured out.

But the reality is that we don’t. None of us do.

So, this message is for you. Yeah, you, the one still reading this column to procrastinate from doing homework.

Your life is about more than building a resume.

I know it’s hard to imagine, but when you die—and for some of you crazy kids who are burdened with worries and anxiety, that may not be far off at this rate—none of that volunteering or life planning or “keep-it-togetherness” is going to matter.

When you look back on your life, make sure you’ve invested your time into something that lasts.

That starts with the vulnerability to let go of the image to which you’re clinging so tightly.

Stop trying to keep it together.

Say no to that new organization that needs your help or drop one of those activities that you’re convinced will “look good on a resume.”

Now that takes guts.