Here’s what I thought life was like.
Childhood: Life is all about me.
Teenage years: Life is all about my enjoyment. (Translation: Still about me)
Adult years: Have life mostly figured out, just living and working the dream that I dreamed (idyllic home, perfect parenting, children basking in my awesomeness, etc).
Golden years: Sit back, relax, enjoy what you’ve built.
Of course, there are a few key moments that if you mess up, you will alter your trajectory and rob yourself of the fantasy mansion with paid staff for a rundown shack that smells like cigarettes and trash. (Remember MASH???)
Those key moments are the BIG crossroads of life, the choices like which SCHOOL (high school, college), which EXPERIENCES (travel, spirituality), and which PARTNER (and perhaps very important friendships). These BIG choices create a lifestyle and circumstances that make or break a person’s future.
That’s what I believed anyway.
Since I was 13, I lived my life according to the BIG choices philosophy. I undertook to live away from home during high school in order to go to a Jewish school (kicking and screaming parents in tow), I didn’t burden myself with a moral compass until I was 18 and knew if I didn’t buckle down soon, my future direction would change. By 21 I made a decision to be conscientious, accountable, an adult. Someone who could hold down a job, whose mistakes and challenges would from here-on-out be of small proportions, hey, maybe I could even be a role model for others.
Goodbye journey, Hello destination. I’ve arrived.
My rude awakening came swiftly when I found myself on top of the world in this new-found state of nirvana, proud over my accomplishments and choices. I was doing everything I set out to do, making myself and my mentors proud, feeling self-satisfied.
My disillusionment came in the form of a few human errors, a reality-check when I encountered said mentors’ (who were all grown up and, of course!, infallible) mistakes.
I lost my resolve. I no longer had the strength or motivation to maintain the perfect image I thought I had attained (I hadn’t!).
When I was ready to dust myself off and try again, I lived in a new world where role models can make the wrong decisions and I was no longer perfect.
In the ten years since then, I have made lots and lots of adult-size (super-size) mistakes. I have learned to forgive myself and others for the constant stream of bad decisions (from trivial to large). I have learned to give myself plenty of time and patience.
Every time I step up to a new rung, a new job, a marriage, a new child, a new friend, a new challenge, I am greeted with fresh new mistakes.
I look at how I spend my time, where I spend my energy- mental and physical, what I give my all to, what I have become complacent in, bad choices I never bothered to correct, good choices I need to dust off and re-integrate.
Turns out, this life (for me, for now) is more like:
Childhood: Life is all about me.
Teenage years: Life is all about my enjoyment. (Confession: I hope this won’t be the case for my children!)
Adult years: The good days? Three steps forward, two steps back or – bad days- two steps forward three steps back.
Golden years: Growing, growing….
May this Jewish new year, we be blessed with all the resources we need (health, peace of mind, money) for a fresh start towards human, fallible and humble greatness, a year of growth and positive impact, a year with clearer understanding of what this life is like.