Written by: Christopher Sell
Primary Source: The Wednesday Wake Up
What am I going to do with my life?
That’s the question I used to always get from just about everybody.
Nowadays, folks don’t tend to ask me that anymore. I think they assume that I’ve reached the Utopian stage of adulthood — spouse, kid, mortgage, steady job — in which I’ve got most of life’s pressing questions figured out. Or at least they surmise I’m comfortable with putting them to rest for the moment.
To the contrary, however, I don’t have it all figured out. Very far from it. There’s a part of me that’s always wondering about:
What else is out there?
Is this the right career for me?
What should I be doing now to ensure I’m where I want to be later on?
I sometimes play hide-and-go-seek with my daughter and I wonder what she might be when she’s older. I’m already getting caught up in her narrative.
I’m still wondering what I want to be when I grow up.
And I know I’m not the only one. I hear my friends with advanced degrees lament their job prospects, or the college students I advise who aren’t sure how to pick a major. Even more likely? My peers who are 3 – 5 years into their career and realize they don’t love what they do as much as they hoped they would. I’ve heard this battle cry from first-time dads and full-time students and part-time restaurant servers.
But lately I’ve been looking at my dilemma with a different lens, and I’m liking what I’m seeing.
I realize I don’t have to wonder what I’m going to do with my life. I’m already doing it.
What I’m doing now is what I’m going to do with my life.
I don’t mean this literally, like if I’m a restaurant server today I will be a restaurant server for my whole life. I mean it in the sense that the way I conduct myself with people today, the decisions I make, the character I build — all these things don’t dictate who I am or what I will do for the rest of my life. They don’t change the story of my past or prevent me from changing how tomorrow unfolds. What I do today defines who I am…today.
And I’m learning to be okay with that.
My new-found patience with the present helps remind me that I can enjoy today, even if I’m not doing the hobbies I’ve envisioned taking up, or reading the books sitting on my night stand, or even if I’m not doing the job that I speculate I was called to do. We get so caught up with what we ought to be doing and how to get there that we forget to just be okay with where we are right now. The building blocks to an impressive life aren’t outside of me, but inside of me. And I have what it takes. It will probably just take time.
A meaningful life is made up of small actions and decisions that add up over time.
And I have control over that. I can start to make those decisions today. I learned that a few years ago when I decided one day to officially start training for a marathon. I woke up on January 5th, 2011. I went for a 4 mile run. It wasn’t anything exciting. But the next day I woke up and ran 4 miles again. And then 5 miles. And so on and so on. Before I knew it, I was standing at the start line on the Old Mission Peninsula, ready to run 26.2 miles. At one time.
A bunch of small decisions, over a period of time, led to a big moment in my life story.
We always have the opportunity, each and every day, to make those small decisions that add meaning to our lives.
Apologizing to a friend.
Asking someone for help.
Engaging hard conversations with your family.
Being honest with yourself.
Admitting what you really want and going after it.
I think sometimes we get caught up in thinking about what’s on the other side. I know I do. It’s so easy to believe that the grass is indeed greener in other people’s pastures. Your Facebook Newsfeed is great at reinforcing this fabricated narrative. But if we take the time to stop, be patient, and take stock on our current lives, we might just discover something we like.
Sometimes we’re discontent with our jobs, our relationships, or some other significant component of our lives. And I think we can learn to be okay with that.
At least for a while.
The best part of this way of thinking for me is that it makes me realize how I can have the life I want, despite the context. I don’t have to wonder what I’m going to do with my life, and I don’t need an elaborate strategy or plan. I can just start doing it. Right now. Little moments each day will eventually culminate into something bigger.
So on this Wednesday morning, I will probably wake up and wonder — at least once, guaranteed — what am I going to do with my life?
I’ll quickly counter with my new-found approach, and I’ll tell myself it’s the same thing I’m going to do today. I’m going to work hard at my job, spend time with good company, and build a community of people around me who I can support and can support me.
Today, I’m going to play hide-and-go-seek with my daughter. And I’m not going to worry about anything beyond that.
What about you?