You thought a lot about your future when you were younger.
Well, perhaps it wasn’t thinking so much as it was dreaming.
Dreaming about the choices you were going to make, given the wealth of great options that undoubtedly lay before you… as if what happened in your life came down to picking this or that from a menu.
It’s not really like that, is it?
Choices are less like menus than like dominos: they build on one another when things are going well — and they knock one another down when they aren’t.
You used to believe you could do anything you wanted to do, at any point you decided to do it. You didn’t perceive any sort of obstacles in your path if you wanted something badly enough. You had very encouraging parents, but you also had this crazy sort of confidence that things would work out exactly as you’d always hoped they would.
(That was probably a good thing. Profound realism in the heart of an eight year-old is generally more sad than useful.)
But here’s the thing: you can’t do just anything now. Not anymore.
You couldn’t then, either, even there was a little more of that “anything” to choose from three decades ago.
You still can do a lot of things, mind you.
But whatever notion you had of “chasing every star” or “never ever settling” or “anything is possible”?
Say goodbye to those things.
You didn’t run a track record in high school.
You weren’t a pageant queen like your cousins.
You didn’t meet the perfect man at 18 and ride into the sunset in a giant poofy gown.
You didn’t get two graduate degrees before you were 26.
You didn’t have the three, four, five kids and two dogs and one cheerful cat.
You didn’t buy the house with the pool and the lemon trees.
You haven’t founded a handful of nonprofits, each one devoted to solving a problem in those extra-long commercials that made you cry.
You weren’t making six figures before you were 30.
You don’t have it all.
And while that “all” might look ridiculous or generic to anyone else, you did want it. Really.
But that’s not what you have.
What you have is a body that doesn’t quite look how you meant it to look, or do what you meant it to do. But that body can dance like nobody’s business at weddings and in grocery aisles. Those hands can cook and write and make things beautiful. Those feet have walked a long, long way. And that brain in there? You never know where it’s going to take you.
What you have is a history that is full of mistakes, both big and small. But those mistakes have taught you things you can share to help other people avoid them. They’ve taught you about grace and kindness and forgiveness. They’ve taught you patience. And they’ve also taught you that you’re going to make many, many more mistakes in the years to come… and those ones won’t kill you either.
What you have is a career path that has gone in a few different directions, instead of covering the most distance possible in the shortest time. You didn’t actually pursue the thing you meant to do for quite a while. But the things you did before that, even when they were hard? They were good. And you’ve learned so much since you picked up that pen in earnest. Those lessons haven’t been easy ones, not always. But without all of them in place. you couldn’t do what you do now, not as well.
What you have is a bank account that doesn’t have gobs of zeros, a wardrobe that is never going to be in Vogue, eye wrinkles from squinting, a shoe collection that relies a lot on two straps and a footbed of rubber, and an apartment where you practically cried with joy to have in-suite laundry! In Boston! And a dishwasher!
But you also have a hundred-plus countries left to visit. Many, many potential friends left to meet. A whole internet full of recipes left to try. A laugh that has only gotten more spastic and uncontrollable over the years. Innumerable words left to write. Art to create if you take the time for it. A love story that started fantastic and has only gotten better, even on the hard days. Countless songs left to learn and sing.
When you hear it at first, it sounds like a door slamming shut, right? You can’t have everything your heart desires.
And then it opens right back up.
Because you can desire everything you have with all of your heart.
Love who you are. Love the things you do. Love the days you have. Love the people around you. Dig deep into all of it, work freakishly hard at it, and stop wondering what the heck you might have been or what life might look like if you’d done something differently.
Get ridiculously excited about what you have right now.
Have you tried that?
Didn’t think so.
But now’s as good a time as any to start.