A misspent youth? What happens when the dreams of the past don’t come true?


I love the bush. When I was younger I had no other dream than to live my life in the bush — as a hermit! I wanted to build my own log cabin and live off the land. I read all kinds of books about living in the bush. I built tents in the back yard and slept in them. I spent my High School summers canoeing in northern Saskatchewan, both as a part of Nemeiben Lake Canoe and Bible Camp and with my family. I paddled the Churchill, Paull, Geikie (upstream), South Saskatchewan (solo), and Foster Rivers. I ran (and swam) rapids and paddled lakes. I explored educational programs that would ensure that I lived in the bush for the rest of my life. It was fun.

Our recent time in Canada has rekindled my love for the bush. I have had a chance to do some paddling over the past year and even made a return trip to the Churchill River. But perhaps the greatest impact on my dreams of late has been the TV show Alone. Alone’s premise is to leave 10 people alone in the bush for as long as they can last. They are allowed 10 items to help them survive and the person who lasts the longest wins a cash prize. There have been a lot of highly skilled contestants over the 8 seasons the show has been on and it made me realise one thing. I have had a misspent youth.

I first heard that term on our Faith Academy Senior High School trip. We were playing Fuzbol, a rather perplexing game that seemed to involve a lot of spinning of rods with plastic men attached to them. Any goals scored by us seemed to be merely by chance. All except one player. Dan Larson was our photography teacher and he had the ability to actually control the ball. After one amazing shot where he deftly moved the ball with one of his defenders and then slammed it into the goal, our class advisor, Derek Foster, said, “Ah. A misspent youth!”

That cemented the definition of the term for me as “a skill of dubious value that one has gained because of spending too much time on it when they should have been spending time elsewhere.” I realised while watching the experts on Alone that I hadn’t taken the time to develop the skills that would make me successful on the show. I knew a few things and had the right dreams but my survival skills have not been developed.

I also realised another thing. I am currently living the life of my dreams. I have a wonderful soulmate and family that I share my life with. I am doing what I love doing — teaching theology of church and culture to people all over the world. I work for a great organisation. I live in a great city. I have great colleagues. I really have no complaints worth mentioning. So what happened?

I guess I really had two dreams when I was a kid — two rather incompatible dreams. One was to live alone in the bush while the other was to be a missionary. Perhaps one of the major reasons why I wanted to live alone in the bush was my shyness. I was petrified to talk to people. I remember one conversation I had with a young lady in our youth group — I spent the time looking at the floor giving one-word answers. I purposely messed up the yearly speeches we had to give in elementary school just so I wouldn’t have to present to the entire school. It’s odd that this is now what I spend my time doing.

As men we are often told to follow our dreams, but what if our dreams are incompatible with who we are? I mentioned above that I explored educational programs that would allow me to live in the bush for the rest of my life. What I didn’t mention is that I never entered those programs. Instead I ended up with a religious studies degree from University of Saskatchewan, and a seminary degree from Canadian Baptist Seminary. It still amazes me that a shy, quiet guy would choose such a public role a ministry & missions for a career path! So what happened? I guess the difference might be explained by a calling vs a dream. Now I realise I may be setting up a false dichotomy here but bear with me a little. I wasn’t very far into my seminary experience when I was expected to preach a sermon. As I look back on that first sermon (on Romans 7 of all things) I don’t recall any feelings of shyness or fear. I don’t have any other explanation for that than that the Holy Spirit changed me. I no longer looked for opportunities to avoid public speaking or leadership roles.

I guess in some ways Romans 7 became real to me in that I ended up doing what I didn’t want to do! I guess I could say that rather than mis-spending my youth I re-spent my youth developing the skills that I would need to fulfill the new dream I was living. And I wouldn’t change anything for the world!

I guess I should also say that my life has been pretty vanilla even though I live in an exotic place. I haven’t experienced any new trauma. My relationships are all intact. I don’t even think I have made a lot of sacrifices. But I do realise that others are in a much different situation than I am and may not be as happy with where they are right now.

What were your dreams growing up and how do they match what you are doing now? Is that ok? Do you have new dreams?

How can you explain the differences? Can you see evidence that the Holy Spirit has been a key part of those changes? In what ways?

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image taken by me.

2 thoughts on “A misspent youth? What happens when the dreams of the past don’t come true?

  1. Pingback: The 10 most read posts of 2021 on michaeljfast.com | Michael J. Fast

  2. Pingback: Ginugol ko ba ang aking kabataan sa paggawa ng mga maling bagay? Paano kapag hindi tinutupad ang ating mga pangarap sa buhay? | Michael J. Fast

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