I ran a literary salon in a grade eleven English class, and one seventeen-year-old student said, “I’m just waiting for my life to start.” This struck me as a sad statement, so I asked him, “Aren’t you alive now?”
He responded with a list of the many ways his life was going to improve when he got out of school and into the real world. He would get a good job, be free to make his own choices, live wherever he wanted, and answer to no one. I tried to tell him that the problems only get bigger when you get older.
It’s dangerous to long for your life to start, because most of that is only conjecture. It’s like throwing darts while blindfolded, hoping to hit your target. How will you know when you’ve arrived at this magical place where now your life is finally what you want it to be?
I think it bothered me because I saw myself in this young, discontented teen. Most of the things that irritate us hit uncomfortably close to our own experience. I don’t think I convinced him to stop living in the future and start embracing the messy, beautiful imperfection of his current grade eleven experience, but that wasn’t the point. Instead, I convinced myself.
I spent many years waiting for that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I told myself, “My life will be amazing when I get married, have kids, sell a screenplay, buy a house, go on a book tour, win an Oscar…(fill in the blank).” Some of these things have happened and some have not, but waiting to be happy and fulfilled is a losing game.
It’s all here, right now, each and every day. The responsibility, the fun, the pain, the bottomless joy, the wonder, the crouching fear, the uncertainty. All of it belongs to each of us, muddling our way through this strange, beautiful and terrible experience called life. We can’t wait. We must be brave enough to live it now, today, this very hour.
Happiness and hurt exist together, side by side. We don’t get creativity without fear. We only succeed when we are willing to fail. It’s all mixed up together, in an unpredictable and sloppy brew. If we are alive, we shouldn’t wait for our life to start. It’s been going since the moment you drew your first breath.
Own it, for exactly what it is. If it sucks, improve it. If you hate it, make changes. Life is not happening someplace else, in some future location. This is it.
Don’t blame your parents or circumstances or politics. If you want something, pursue it with your whole heart. Don’t quit until you get it, but by all means, enjoy each and every step on the path that takes you there. We only have so much time to be alive. We all have lessons to learn. Everything counts.
Don’t wait. Today is the day to live your best life.