I knew a man once who wouldn’t answer "why questions." Why are you going to the store? Why don’t you want a piece of cake? Why didn’t you call? If you asked him such a question, he’d respond, “I don’t answer why questions.” So you’d grit your teeth and rephrase, doing your best to drain any snark out of your voice. But in retrospect, he may have been onto something. When I was fifteen I was nominated to attend The Future Leaders of America. Turns out, it was really Future Business Leaders of America. Nothing wrong with business leaders, but this was not really my crowd, shall we say. For instance, a group of us high achieving sophomores were sitting together waiting for the orientation to start, and to pass the time we told each other what we planned to study in college. Business, business, law, business law . . . and then me. Writing, I said. To which one of the Future Business Majors of America asked, “Why?” When I told him, “Because I like to write,” he felt I still hadn’t answered his question.
But how could I, and how could anyone? It is almost impossible to say why you do anything, because eventually the answer will circle down to, “Because I want to.” Why have you chosen to tell a particular story? You can roll out all the marketing research you want, but in the end the only reason you write anything is because you want to.
As it should be, but merely wanting to do something is not much to hold onto, at least not for that lizard part of your brain bent on keeping you alive. All the Future Leaders talked about money and prestige that day, and I understood, and I wouldn’t have talked them out of it because I’m sure their lizard brains rested satisfied in the warm sun of all that money coming their way. But I hope they liked business, or law, or business law. I hope they looked forward to the actual work of it. If they didn’t, they may have looked up from their wide mahogany desk one day and asked, “Why am I here?” And that is a why question nobody wants to answer.
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