A friend and I were chatting one night, catching up on things and the conversation turned to our usual wistful, wishful discussion of how life was really going.
You know, the real conversation that occurs when we get beyond the superficial stuff.
And once we had the stuff about our hair, makeup, latest diet out of the way, we got down to the nitty gritty.
“How are you? Really?” we asked each other.
When you’ve been friends a while you know there are often things that go unsaid.
“I just thought,” she began, “I don’t know…that life would somehow be….”
Her voice trailed off.
I understood exactly what she meant.
Different. She thought by the time she hit 40, life would be different.
More settled, more secure.
More exciting, more fabulous.
I had thought so myself.
In fact, when I was younger, I thought by the time I hit my 40’s – which, when I was younger, I thought was some ancient age – I would have acquired all the success I could handle and would be sitting somewhere, content with life.
No, I wasn’t drinking, either. I was in my late teens when I had this delusion.
A professor once told me frustration is when our expectations and our realities are not jelling.
If that is the case, consider me frustrated.
Make that a lot of us.
When I graduated college, I thought there was nothing I couldn’t do.
I was going to do great things, set the world on fire.
I see that hope, inspiration, motivation in young people now when they graduate, thinking it will be them that change the world.
But life happens.
Not that life is bad.
It’s not – life has a wonderful, beautiful way of putting us where we need to be sometimes.
It’s just that somehow along the journey, we realize we get off track towards our hopes and dreams.
Those things we thought we’d achieve, do, accomplish – the great American novel, the rock n’ roll album, the wild, crazy dreams – never get fulfilled.
And we settle for things that are far less than those dreams.
We settle for jobs that pay the bills instead of feed our souls.
We settle for situations that really don’t make us happy.
We settle for lives of quiet desperation, fueled by unfulfilled dreams that leave us yearning for things we think are so out of reach.
The great secret, I told my friend, was that really no one’s life has gone the way they wanted – for the most part, anyway. There may be a few that did but more than likely, they all had something that wasn’t perfect, some area of their life that didn’t turn out quite how they wanted.
“And that doesn’t mean life is bad,” I reminded her. “It just means that sometimes, we get sidetracked from our dreams. We stop focusing on what we want, and we just…”
“Settle,” we said in unison.
Someone posed the question in a group over the weekend: “What would you like to change about your life?”
I thought long and hard before I responded.
Other than having some issues with forgiveness or my inability thereof, I wouldn’t change anything.
Sure, there were mistakes. I learned from them.
Yes, there were opportunities I didn’t take that would have been really, really incredible – and would have maybe given something more substantial towards retirement than the $1.75 I have lingering somewhere.
And sure, a lot the experiences and circumstances brought heart ache, disappointment, and made me feel devastated. They didn’t all get me closer to my dreams, or even put that much money in my bank account.
But they all made me me.
Just like the detours and experiences in my friend’s life had made her beautifully her.
We had grown up and thought we deserved the mediocre jobs and the fake relationships.
We thought we deserved to be talked to harshly and treated poorly and even worse, thought it was okay.
“So how do we change this?” she asked. We both were out of wine and the conversation had gotten far more serious than Malbec can handle.
“We settle again,” I said, hearing her sigh. “But this time, we settle for more.”
We start acting like we do deserve better and go after it with the same optimism and foolish belief we can do anything we set our minds to. We take the life we have, and we make it the very best it can be.
Because just because life doesn’t turn into the fairy tale we thought it would be, doesn’t mean it is still not something amazing.