I’m headed somewhere new. In roughly thirteen months, I will close the book on my thirties. I know… I know… it’s not over yet, and it really is no big deal. I have to admit, however, that as a new decade begins to come into view, I’m becoming quite introspective. Maybe I always am, but at this moment, I’m having a tough time making peace with my thirties. I keep wondering how it’s possible that large chunks of time, such as decades, can pass so quickly. How is it possible that I could have been so off the mark on how my life would have turned out by this time? How is it possible that I still have no idea where my life is headed? Those are the types of questions that make my throat feel tight. When that happens, I shift my thoughts to questions that can lead to insight, rather than the ones that feed the beast of “Fear of the Unknown.” Okay. Breathe.
What valuable lessons have I learned so far?
Try your hardest.
Don’t give up.
Never judge someone else.
Love with all your heart.
Take care of yourself, body, mind, and soul.
Have faith in things larger than yourself.
I’m sure there are heaps more, but these are the lessons that I attempt to bring into my everyday life, for my daughter’s sake as well as my own.
I look at that list, and I wonder if I had to give myself a grade for each phase of my life, where was it that I failed? As a teenager, did I honestly take care of myself? Did I let the opinion of others belittle my self-worth? Did I drag that into my twenties with me? Did I give up on things that were important to me because of circumstances? Did I pay attention when things began to fracture? These are the areas where I can now look back and say that I probably earned an F. If I’m honest, I struggle with the feeling of being a “failure” just as often as anyone. (Wait… we all feel it sometimes, right? If this does not apply to you, then I invite you to hop on over to my Instagram or Pinterest account to look at pretty pictures for the rest of this monologue. Go ahead. Off you go. Let the rest of us lick our wounds without judgment, okay?) Anyway, as I said, we all feel it. Right here in the center ring is where I will try to make sense and wrestle my fears and presumed failures of my thirties to the ground because I refuse to lug them around any longer. Let’s talk this through so we can all learn something together, shall we?
When my marriage ended, I felt like I had failed at the one thing where I was most confident. I would have staked my life on it until the very end. In fact, it took me years to even reconcile with the notion that, indeed, it was over and that part, those nearly two decades of my life, were gone. I think I was trying to get extra credit points in the subjects of “Don’t give up,” “Forgive,” and “Love with all of your heart”… but the semester had ended, and the teacher had closed the books. I was about to write that it didn’t matter what I said or did any longer, but that’s not really true. A student can still learn the lesson, with or without a passing grade attached to it, can’t they? I can assert with conviction that I gave all that I could to what was most important to me during those years. And only when I was ready to let go of what once was, was I able to learn the next lesson. I call it, “Listening to Your Internal Navigation System” and move on.
Sometimes I forget that you haven’t read my (not-yet-published-but-hopefully-one-day) memoir. One of my favorite parts to write was a description of the moment when I realized that my life was headed somewhere new. Several years ago, I was standing in my kitchen, and a conversation opened up a floodgate of memories. When the waters receded, and I found myself standing firmly on the ground again, I recognized not a stitch of the life I was living. Nothing at all was comfortable nor familiar. It was at that moment when I realized that I MUST be headed somewhere new.
Think about it for a moment. When you need to go somewhere unfamiliar, you pop open the address on your smartphone and allow yourself to be guided, turn by turn. When my daughter and I took our road trip in 2015, we used it the entire way from Houston, Texas to San Francisco, Calfornia. That was roughly two-thousand miles of trust. (Yes, yes, of course, I had an actual atlas with us in case of bad reception, but truthfully I didn’t use the atlas once on our trip.) The thing is, I’ve been in the car with drivers who begin to question the directions, saying things like, “Oh, I don’t recognize a darn thing; this can’t be the right way.” But since that day in my kitchen, I chuckle when I hear things like that being said. Of COURSE, you don’t recognize your surroundings; you are headed somewhere new!
When we are going somewhere we have never been before, without question, we will absolutely come across places we don’t recognize.
The challenging part of listening to our internal navigation system is having faith that we are being guided someplace where we are meant to be in our lives. Let me tell you, sometimes the route is terrifying… BUT… I go back to the list, and I ask myself:
Am I kind?
Am I trying my hardest?
Have I given up?
Am I paying attention?
Am I respectful?
Am I responsible?
Am I forgiving?
Do I love with all my heart?
Am I taking care of myself, body, mind, and soul?
Do I have faith in things larger than myself?
I may not be scoring an A+ in each section… at all… but I am trying my hardest every single day, and one day, I hope to arrive at where I am truly meant to be… wherever that is. And if you, too, find yourself in the midst of somewhere you don’t recognize, then perhaps you are just headed somewhere new? Won’t it be lovely once we all arrive? In the meantime, let’s encourage one another on our journeys. You, my friends, get an A+ from me today and every day!