I realized something last night:
If my life is spent in tireless pursuit of “figuring it all out,” I will spend my whole life feeling dissatisfied. I may figure more things out, but I will never have it all figured out. That end goal just doesn’t exist.
This realization — the futility of the attempt to fully get our lives together, the utter pointlessness of the anxiety we spend so much of our twenties wrapped around — is suddenly, totally, laughable. It’s also tremendously freeing.
You and I, we don’t have to have it all figured out. Ever. We can’t.
So why burden ourselves with an impossible demand?
I want to jump up and down with relief, to skip down the street and hug every struggling stranger I meet, to sing along loudly to the new Justin Timberlake on the radio, to run through some sprinklers in childlike bliss, to eat ice cream from a cone and giggle when it drips on me. That’s how joyful this revelation makes me feel.
We can’t achieve perfection. We will never figure it all out. So we can remove that objective from this life.
What we can do is learn from past mistakes. And we can be compassionate towards ourselves and our stumblings, past and present.
We like to fantasize about who we’d be or what we’d have done if we had known better: I should have taken this job or I should have gone to that university or I should have moved to that city. But we didn’t. We weren’t ready then to become who we are prepared to be now. Just like I’m not ready now to be who I’ll become in another five or even ten years. And I don’t know about you, but I’m so grateful for that. We need to experience uncertainty and struggle, to fail in myriad ways large and small; otherwise we’d never know how brave we are.
And that’s it. That’s exactly it.
I have this long-held vision of the girl I’d be if I had everything “figured out”, if I’d made some different choices: she tosses her hair over her shoulder as she strides into her high-profile office job, her stiletto heels the conduits of her grace and confidence rather than the inhibitors of it. She dashes out of work at night to meet her suave, charming, handsome boyfriend and a crew of fabulous girlfriends for happy hour at the new bar downtown, which offers an assortment of international cheese to accompany the extravagant wine list. She throws sophisticated dinner parties and goes to the theatre two or three times a month. And she frequently jets off on adventures abroad for pleasure, not business.
But maybe… maybe that’s not actually what I want at all. Maybe this particular vision just speaks to the wider, deeper part of my soul that simply longs to be braver.
The part that wants to dance in the shower of blessings poured on me and taste every rich drop of experience that lands on my tongue.
The part that wants to love this life and the people in it with abandon and without fear.
The part that wants to go all in, to rejoice in the fullness of the human experience and the gifts that have been lavished on me. To create, to dream, to adventure, to discover.
As I think back on this past year, I realize I’m obviously not where I think I should be if I’m remaining fixed on that image.
But I am already exceptionally brave. And so are you.
To design a life, to discern your hopes and dreams, to build a community for yourself: these are all insanely courageous endeavors. You don’t have to make a cross-country move, or get the glam job, or travel to Paris or London every year, in order to live a brave, adventurous, full life. Maybe you just initiate a conversation with the cute guy you met on that dating app, or you ask a coworker to grab a drink with you in the hopes of striking up a new friendship, or you interview for that new job you want even though you might not get it.
To live this life, to wake up day after day and thrust ourselves into the storm of uncertainty, to grasp for a light switch in the dark, to take that next step forward and pray it doesn’t lead us off the cliff… this is the height of bravery. And freedom.
We don’t need to “have it all figured out.” We’re figuring it out. And that’s enough.
– image credit: Unsplash