Marital status aside—my life looks a lot like I thought it would when I was growing up.
I live in the Ohio suburbs. I’m middle class. My child goes to Catholic school now, just like I did.
When I was a kid, I didn’t really know what marriage would look and feel like, so I didn’t spend a great deal of time imagining it.
When I was a kid, I didn’t really understand what separates the financial winners from the losers. And I still don’t. I often feel like a complete failure. But compared to many people (the statistical majority, actually), I’m really doing quite well.
I hold myself to pretty high standards. And maybe that’s not psychologically healthy. But I don’t know how to quit. And I’m not sure I’d want to if I did.
Ask me why I’m 35 and have never been promoted at any of my three jobs since graduating college, and I’ll feed you an excuse: “Well! When you’re a newspaper reporter or copywriter in a corporate environment, there really isn’t much upward mobility!!!”
But the truth is that I’ve never made myself stand out as a leader of others.
Ask me why I lost my last job, and I’ll tell everyone how unlucky I was: “Oh yeah! Back in college, how could we have known what would happen to the newspaper industry!?!? I survived two rounds of corporate layoffs before the economic crunch caught up to me on a third round of cuts, and I was the least-senior person on staff!!!”
As if telling the story that way (which is all true, but all bullshit) makes you think any more of me.
The truth is that I didn’t prove myself to be indispensible to the publication. They knew they could lose me and there would be no financial consequences. There wasn’t enough demand for my writing and I never gave anyone a reason to care.
It’s not the economy’s fault my career is what it is.
It’s my fault.
It’s not the universe spoon-feeding me bad luck that has made me a single 35-year-old who works in a cubicle, leaving this dissatisfied taste in my mouth.
It’s my fault.
A little bit of ignorance.
A little lack of discipline.
A little lack of life experience.
But those three things all can be remedied.
So, what’s possible? What’s possible today?
More than once in history, the American people picked up their newspapers or turned on their televisions to learn the U.S. president had been shot and killed.
That lady over there just won a new car on a scratch-off lottery ticket.
A ping-pong ball bounced the right way last June, triggering a series of events that have turned the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers (my favorite team) into championship favorites after four straight years of horribleness.
Things just happen.
One day I was getting ready to fly to San Diego for a wedding and my wife told me she was pregnant.
Another time, when I was little, my mom put me in a car and drove me 500 miles away from my dad and we never came back.
You get the idea.
We know this already because life surprises us all the time. Like when we heard the Robin Williams news last week.
Things just happen. And we can’t see them coming.
The good news is that many of those things are not bad. And some are quite good.
I’ve just been thinking that maybe my life is a lot like how I thought it would be because I always thought this was “the way.”
You’re a little kid.
You go to grade school.
You go to high school.
You go to college.
You get a job.
You get married and have kids.
You try to get better jobs and raise your kids.
You retire and maybe travel in an RV, or live part of the year in Florida.
It’s hard for my brain to come up with things I haven’t seen or experienced. It’s hard for me to think beyond what I know.
That’s why I’m a writer in a safe corporate job at age 35, convincing people that often have less money than I do that they need to spend it on the things our company sells.
I was always so happy from childhood through college, and a bit beyond, that I never bothered to think about other ways to live a life, or what might happen if I was wrong.
Because, I was wrong.
What I’ve done, and what a lot of people do is A WAY. But certainly not THE WAY.
There’s no THE WAY.
Because while we all share so much deep-seated commonalities within our hearts and minds because of the human condition, we are all motivated by so many different things, and those motivating factors are changing constantly because of changing health or financials or children or death, or simply our individual passions and pursuits.
I want to get better at everything.
I want to get better at being a dad. A homeowner. A writer. A friend. A co-parent.
I want to get better at life.
And they don’t have a scoring system for that which matters. Some people measure it with checking accounts, or attendance records, or the cars in their garage, or their children’s achievements, or the photos they post to Facebook, or the job titles printed on their business cards.
And that’s fine. All of those can be good. And all can be bad. Most of the time, they really don’t matter.
In the end, our ability to thrive mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally in an ever-changing world is what gives us the balance we need to enjoy life. And I think people can achieve that balance and thrive regardless of their job, or their house, or where they graduated college, or how many people fawn over them at the next high school reunion.
There are all these things in life I want to do and experience, but I make excuses and just go to work 40 or so hours a week and hang out at home most of the time in a life that looks and feels a bit wasted.
I’d move somewhere fun! But my son is here and I can’t leave!, I’ll tell you.
I want to write and travel! But I need my job to pay for all of this… stuff!
I’d be hard-bodied and in the best shape of my life since I’m trying to attract a mate! But I’m still a little depressed over my failed marriage and the loss of my family last year so I don’t workout enough!
I always forget: Anything can happen.
I don’t know why I forget since we are constantly reminded.
We get so wrapped up in our little comfortable routines and we’re often too scared to leap. It doesn’t feel safe to leap.
But I WANT to leap. Maybe you do, too.
Because that clock is not slowing down and we only have one shot.
Because safe is boring.
Because the bad things that might happen are never really as bad as we imagine them.
Because we can handle it.
Because no matter how bad, good or great we have it, there is ALWAYS more to life than this. Than right now.
What’s possible today?