Like many of us, I was read to as a child. I can still hear my mother’s lilting and precise voice dancing across the pages of countless books – the classic book of Gnomes, McBroom’s Ear, and of course, the sprawling silliness of Dr. Seuss.
And I’ve read hundreds of books to my kids. But one book stands out as so relevant, poignant, and decidedly unsilly that it deserves a moment of reflection.
“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” By Dr. Seuss.
If you’ve never read it, read it.
If you’ve read it a bazillion times, read it again.
What I remember about the book from my childhood was merely a sliver of its intent. I recalled a message encouraging a young boy to travel and explore the world. Sufficient for a child to glean from a dreamily illustrated children’s book. And more than enough to usher me on my way toward a life of curiosity.
But Oh the Places You’ll Go! is about far more than simply heading off on an adventure. It’s a blueprint for life’s “bumps” and “slumps.” A sobering and supportive guide for times of darkness and difficulty. A poetic warning.
It’s about seeking opportunity, experiencing failure, learning to trust your own decisions, struggling against conformity, combating depression, accepting loneliness, confronting fears, and finding motivation. It is an epic poem and visual metaphor designed to cement the idea that “Life’s a Great Balancing Act.” There will be good. There will be bad. And the one common factor is that it will be up to you to get through it all.
My mother used to say, “The only way out, is through.” I always felt this was one of those hollow parental non-answers to a question that warranted specific instruction. It took me decades to realize that what I felt was her “deal with it” shrug, was encouragement and trust that I could handle whatever I was faced with. I could get through it on my own.
Seuss’ message is not subtle. So I don’t pretend to be solely insightful in my recognition of it. It is, however, uniquely and personally crafted with such care and heart that it sparked a fundamental and wholly universal theme for my life. And I wouldn’t know that until far into adulthood. That’s part of Seuss’ brilliance.
Winding through 44 pages of ups and downs, confusion and clarity, entrapment and escape, success and failure, Seuss’ message circles back toward the positive – that our lives are our own to face, to accept, to deal with, and to excel through. And that the time to realize that is now – TODAY!
“So…get on your way!“