Doing things differently since 1984
It dawned on me recently that it will be soon be a year after everything changed for me, both for better and worse in different ways. I’m a firm believer in the idea that “good” or “bad” is only maybe 10% what actually happened, and 90% what you make of it, so I’m going to call this a good year. I’ve learned a lot. Which is funny, because in terms of actual events, not a whole lot has happened. But I thought I’d follow up and write out a bit of what’s happened underneath what’s happened – mostly for my own sake, because, frankly, my memory is terrible.
It strikes me that in what I’d like to consider a pretty young life so far, I’ve actually done and seen quite a lot. I’ve lived in… way too many places. I’ve covered urban, suburban, and rural, including just about every region of the United States, and one particularly awesome region of the UK. I’ve completed two degrees, had what I would consider the most perfect wedding, given birth to two healthy children, seen some truly amazing things, accomplished much, and met many wonderful people.
Yet, for all the places I’ve been, I’ve left pieces of my heart in at least half of them, good friends in most of them, and unrealized dreams in all of them. My brashness had me close to becoming permanently paralyzed, my degrees are little more use than bragging rights, and that perfect wedding did not procure a marriage that lasted. Many of my achievements and experiences that I thought I would bear as trophies, I now bear as scars. I’m 30 and finding myself starting over with a foundation of years of baggage.
I don’t say any of this to brag or complain or say I’m better or worse off than anyone else. It’s just a bit unsettling (or perhaps settling?) to sit back and realize that a life — any life — when you zoom out far enough, is just stuff. Successes, failures, meanderings, experiences, ups and downs… whether we make them happen, or they happen to us unpredictably, in the end they’re little more than the inevitable plot devices of our lives.
I’ve always been the sort to jump readily from dreams and talk, to a step-by-step plan, and then to action, and I’ve been fortunate to have the freedom to see many of these plans come to fruition. Yet, there’s a funny thing about freedom… the freedom to go after one’s dreams also comes with the freedom to see one’s dreams come crashing down, to not be all we thought they’d be, or to find that they bear a price we never knew they would bear.
This isn’t to say that we should just throw our hands up and drift through our lives aimlessly. But I’m coming to accept that I spent too much time focusing on all the stuff of life, and too little time focusing on the one living it. At the end of the day, when all the good stuff and bad stuff cancel each other out, all we’re left with is the people we’ve become, or chosen to be, or striving to be. As it turns out, those are the dreams that actually matter the most.
So, hopefully, I still have lots of life to live, and I’m making new kinds of step-by-step plans now. Not the kinds of plans that center around where I’m going to live, or what experiences I’m going to have, but the kinds of plans that make me the person I want and need to be… strong roots, a tough spine, a heart and conscience as calm as a summer sea, and, you know, me — me, with as little garbage attached as possible.
As it turns out (so far), trying to take control of myself is a bit more rewarding than trying to take control of everything around me – though, interestingly, it’s no easier. Humans are difficult creatures, and I suspect I’m worse than most of them. A good year doesn’t mean all my days have been good. But overall, despite everything, I feel renewed, at peace, and highly optimistic that maybe I can actually do this “life” thing.
I have the utmost gratitude for everyone who has helped and inspired me this past year — some of you know who you are, and others are likely to have no clue. So, you know, for simplicity’s sake, just go ahead and assume you deserve to be thanked.