Last week I was reading the Dr. Seuss classic Oh, the Places You’ll Go! to my nephew before he went to bed. I was reading it thinking that kids today should read this book every day, when I started to feel twinge of sadness. I started wondering who Dr. Seuss’s real audience was meant to be for this book. The book is quoted at graduations every year, but how much does it actually mean to the graduates?
Reading the book as a 20-something stirred up too many emotions: anger, nostalgia, sadness, and hope.
I’m going to quote some of the not so famous lines that really struck me while I was reading this book and then I’ll tell you what my response to it was. I don’t know if you know, but this book holds much more wisdom than just “Today is your day, You’re off to great places. You’re off and away!” While those lines are brilliant and inspiring, there are many more lines that are entirely underrated. So here are some of them:
“You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care. About some you will say, ‘I don’t choose to go there.’ And you may not find any you’ll want to go down.”
Response: So then what?? I don’t like any of those roads, but those are the ones I’m stuck with? What if I don’t want to “head straight out of town” like the book says? What if some roads you aren’t allowed to go down? Give me more, Seuss!
“Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.”
Response: Okay but how many people are you saying that too, Doc? I mean, let’s face it, we can’t all be the best.
“Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t. I’m sorry to say so, but sadly it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.”
Response: I knew it.
“You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch. You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump. And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”
Response: Great, so my friends are going to leave me and succeed and I’m going to be left in a slump? Nope, that won’t happen to me! Wait…. maybe it already is happening… *Cue sadness*
“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.”
Response: Uncharted territory. I may have used that phrase a few times recently. You don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing or how or why you got here, and you just have to wander around alone and figure it out. ‘Mostly they’re darked,’ falling into a slump can easily lead to depression. Am I analyzing the symbolism in Dr. Seuss right now?? Ugh, it’s like I have an English degree or something!
“You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed I fear, toward a most useless place.”
Response: Oh my god, he is talking directly to me. One day I’m going to wake up and wonder where my life went and why I have been wasting so much time! *Cue anger*
“…for people just waiting…” (Here he lists many things that seem normal to wait for, Friday night, a fish to bite… and then he gets deep) or “Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.”
Response: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he capitalized “another chance.” We’re all sitting around waiting for life to happen, and then just like that, it can be gone.
“NO! That’s not for you! Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.”
Response: How Dr. Seuss, how?? What if it’s too late?!
“With banner flip-flapping once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky.”
Response: You really think so? *Cue hope*
“I’m afraid that sometimes you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you.”
Response: I am my own worst enemy and my own biggest critic. My insecurities and over thinking will ruin me if I allow it. Damn, Doc, you’re tearing me up here!
“All alone! Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot. And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.”
Response: “Alone is something you’ll be quite a lot.” Truth Seuss, truth. What amazing advice he’s hidden in these cutesy rhymes: ‘Get used to being alone kid! It’s scary out there, and sometimes being alone with your thoughts is the scariest thing of all, and it sucks, but everyone is alone sometimes.’ He implies that alone is a state of mind. “Have you ever been alone in a crowded room?” Make sure that who are are when you’re alone, is someone who doesn’t make you feel lonely.
“On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are. You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. So be sure when you step. Step with great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.”
Response: Of course, we’re not perfect. We’re going to make mistakes and we won’t always know the best way to solve a problem. But that’s okay. There’s no reason to freak out. You’re only 23! Maybe things are just how they’re supposed to be! (See Seuss, you’re not the only one who can drop a few rhymes!)
“And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!)”
Response: Well at least he’s realistic and honest, that there’s still a chance you’ll fail. But that’s no reason to stop believing that you can “move mountains, kid!”
It was a lot to take in for a quick, bedtime story with an 8 year old, because I knew I got more out of it than he could possibly understand at his age. And I hoped that one day he would read the book with the same enthusiasm and wonder and get something more out of it than just rhymes and colorful pictures. After I closed the book I wanted to give him some grand, memorable, life-changing piece of wisdom, but Dr. Seuss already did. And he said it better than I ever could. So while this book hasn’t always meant so much to me, I have found new meaning in its words, and I truly cherish it. I can only hope that someone out there someday will be able to find new meaning in my own words, and truly cherish them.