What was it for you? Or who was it? Who did you think about being when thinking about being was more acceptable than maybe trying to (re)invent yourself in your 20s, 30s, beyond? What did others see you becoming? Did you want to be rich? Did you want to be a mom? Did you want to write stories and be published? Did you see yourself on stage or did you see yourself backstage as a roadie?
Did your dreams come from what made your heart beat or were they based on the suggestions of others? Did the popularity contest of junior high school or high school shape who you wanted to be?
I think back to my younger days, especially the days when my great uncle was still coaching football. I was obsessed with football. Whenever the media guide arrived at the end of summer, I’m telling you I memorized page after page. I knew stats, collegiate history, each player’s position and number. I could tell you what day they were born (maybe this is why I still have a pretty uncanny ability to remember birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) and where they grew up. It’s a bit creepy, but I also knew their wives’ and kids’ names. But I pored over that data with gusto that has only re-revealed itself in few other things in the years since that time. Maybe song lyrics. Maybe baseball now. Maybe cataloging my son’s experiences and events in a calendar.
But back to younger days. That girl who studied media guides and watched football every Sunday wanted to be an NFL commentator. She wanted to stand on the sidelines and talk to players. Then she wanted to go into the studio of ESPN and interview players and coaches. Can you believe I forgot all about this want and this love until recently when I read Barbara Walters’ 2008 memoir Audition? Barbara Walters didn’t interview athletes on sidelines, but she was the queen of the interview until she retired. She had an unforgettable voice and dialect, sure, but she also had a knack for getting people to talk about themselves and be comfortable.
So where did this dream get lost? I think I know and without saying too much, I think it got lost in those junior high and high school years. I don’t have much fondness when I recall those years. I remember a perpetual sense of feeling awkward and out of place. I remember how much the rumor mill and others’ opinions of you can change your status, your lunch table or your Friday night invitations. I remember worrying about the wrong clothes or the wrong hair. I remember forgetting about dreaming and instead, doing whatever I could to not be different or stand out.
But I have stopped sitting here thinking that my dreams have passed me by and that I’m too old to reinvent myself or start something new. I may never be on an NFL sideline, but why can’t I explore more opportunities to meet people, interview and learn about them, even if it’s just by making new friends or chatting up a stranger in a line at the grocery store? It’s why I write, it’s why I am going to start yoga teacher training in the winter and it’s why I may just try to do a podcast with a friend of mine, even though there are currently 525k podcasts (and counting).
Take a moment this weekend and ask yourself to remember your “Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up.” It may not have been something chosen from a popularity contest at school. Remember YOUR most likely. Ask yourself if you are living the life you would have most likely wanted to live all those years ago. If not, ask yourself what you can do to get closer to it. (Disclaimer – this is not advice to leave your family, quit your job or sell your house and start living in a tent. Unless…) When you see your kids or friends get some excited about something going on in their lives, soak it in and use it to determine what brings you that joy. If you’re lucky enough, you’re there, even if it’s just a little. You’re living joyfully and purposefully, or you’re close to it. But I know so many who can’t even see a glimpse of that joy and fulfillment and I’m not sure why or where we get lost in life. I know taking on the responsibilities of adulthood is no joke. Adulting is a full-fledged affliction and while it has its privileges, it has its challenges too.
The cliches are there to remind us (YOLO, FOMO, IDUNNO), so what can be done to remove our blocks to living a life we love living? What can we do in order to lay down at the end of the night and have the ability to quote Ice Cube and say, “Today was a good day,” or at the very least Brooks & Dunn’s “It’s Getting Better All the Time.”
Mindfulness teaches us to live in the present moment, but I also think you have to visit your past to improve your present and your future. I’ll leave you with lyrics to Darlingside’s “Go Back”… may you remember who you were in order to be who you want to be. May it be of benefit.
We were always on our way
Rolling up our sleeves
Ever moving forward
In the tracks where we lived our simple lives
Kept our blinders on
Eyes to the horizon
And return to who we were
Before we disappeared
Into the thick of big ideas
Now we can see the sweeping view
But we’re waiting out the storm
Stuck under the awning
Skip the stones away
Go back to the start
Photos in the darkroom before they fade
So we hold to who we are
Even into the arc
Beyond our furthest edges
To a world full of strange and towering skies
And a chance to choose in time
To set out on our own way
I know I’m no doctor but I know
You can’t live in the past
But the only way to go is to go back