Lesson Six: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Lesson: Don’t live in the past.

Of the “lessons” thus far, this may be the most true to what the author intended, but it’s important. I can’t for the life of me find it, but I read a fantastic article written by a veteran who implored other veterans to not make their deployment(s) the most significant thing they ever do in their life. Don’t be that guy who sneaks “When I was in Iraq/Afghanistan/the military” into every…single…conversation. The “thank me for my service” guys.

Her husband, among various physical accomplishments, had been one of the most powerful ends that ever
played football at New Haven – a national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute limited
excellence at twenty−one that everything afterward savors of anti−climax.

Same goes for any other wonderful accomplishment from your youth. You got into a great college. You played a sport at a competitive level. You were published. You saved an orphan from a burning bus. You toured with Weezer. Et cetera. I don’t mean to be dismissive of service and success. I mean to say, by canonizing things that have already happened, then you live in a space that no longer exists. It’s all make-believe. For better or worse, you’re not that person anymore. It’s a part of what formed you, but it’s not you.

For the record, I enjoyed The Great Gatsby the first time I read it, and loathed reading it every time since, primarily because just about every character is a slave to their past. It’s gross. Don’t be that person.

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