Professional athletes envision how they hope to make a play. Children imagine what it will be like when they hit the next landmark age. Professionals daydream about what will change when they get a promotion. In American culture, we have been conditioned to believe that eternal hope in the future is the American way. It’s instilled in children that working hard to meet our next goal is not only honorable, but once we have the notch in our belt or the degree in our hand, we will somehow be changed.
This ideal is so critical to the “American Experience” that children are pushed to consider what they want to be in the future, rather appreciating themselves in the moment. Kindergarteners are given writing prompts like: “draw a picture & write about what you want to be when you grow-up.” The responses teachers get are often what each child’s parents do for a living, or the career with the coolest & most identifiable “costume”.
As a youngster, I was required to complete these types of writing prompts & as a teacher, I was guilty of assigning such things. Recently, I had a conversation with one of my elementary school classmates, who referenced that for as long as she remembered, I didn’t want to get married or have babies. She even recalled one assignment in which I made this view quite clear. I answered the inverse of the classic question. Instead of responding with what I wanted to be, I wrote about what I didn’t want to be. This conversation prompted me to look through my writing samples & journals from grade school. I did not find any evidence of this alleged work. However, the “When I Grow-up” paper also seemed to be omitted from the collection.
Maybe my teacher realized how direct & untraditional I was & didn’t want to stir up my parents. Maybe one of the overly Christian children was dismayed by my public denunciation of such traditional rituals & swiped it off the wall. Maybe it innocently fell off the hallway display & a heartless custodian swept it up off the floor. Maybe it never happened. In any case, my friend and I have both known for years that my truth was defined by what I didn’t want or wouldn’t have in my life, rather than imagery around my greatest hopes.
Which brings me to my truth. Growing up, I had no specific vision, no fantasy of what I hoped my future life would hold. Yet, I always was confident in my belief that I would end-up in a good place. Not necessarily in the “right place” where I may have been destined to arrive, but rather in a place I would choose & come to desire over time.
Although it seems a bit laissez-faire, my parents were much too practical to influence my thinking in the direction of fate or karma. We did, however, go to some funky coffee shops referencing karma on the tip jars. The idea of divine intervention & being led to any specific outcome was something referenced in an odd way once in a while in our church, but later in the day my mother would always make a point that OUR choices directly impact OUR outcomes. Usually in relation to why it took us so long to clean our rooms.
Therefore, I was vaguely led to believe & my experiences have shown me: our choices create our lives. We define ourselves. We create our own destinies.
It’s no wonder I am where I am, considering the manner in which I’ve navigated my life. With the deep-seeded belief that choices are unlimited & replenishable. Without an ideal vision of my future life, from which to backwards plan.
Friends & acquaintances weigh-in on my life by saying, “I have high hopes for you” or “I’m not worried about you, I know you will be fine.” The saliency of these pointed comments, coming from longtime acquaintances, is the underlying theme of assurance. When people who know me well & have some context for my unique history have such trust, it gives me hope.
One of the most important people I’ve met in my life this far would preach to me: “First happy, then fun.” In a short time, he came to know me well & recognized my inability to truly let go of my work & life & stress. And called me out on it. I honored this idea of happiness as a pre-requisite for fun in an intellectual context. I strived to feel the beauty of allowing myself the space to be happy, but ultimately, it was an inauthentic & lame attempt, because I wouldn’t allow myself to let go. I couldn’t turn my mind off. I couldn’t stop processing. My work, my life, my inadequacies (according to me) & my unfinished projects were never far enough in the background for me to have a quiet or meditative moment, which I assume is a prerequisite for moments of happiness. I was so frustrated, because I knew this philosophy was spot on & so badly wanted to prescribe to it.
I have since made many & drastic changes to my life, with the sole purpose of happy. I want & need happy, to get fun. To earn fun. And if the grammatical statement, “First happy, then fun” translates to a mathematical equation, certainly there is a sequence. And therefore, I am on a quest for happy.
In this process, many truths about myself have come out & I expect many more. However, if I am nothing else, I am persistent. And that gives me hope. So, clearly, I don’t know how long this venture will take, but I dare to be patient. Patient with other’s inquires, patient with the process, patient with myself. As Sonny said in the film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, “It will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.” So, I am not yet to the end.