By Jon Westenberg
There’s something sad about thinking that the life you’re living right now is a place holder, something to tide you over until your real life begins. That’s the mentality that we often have in our first jobs, or when we’re at college.
We just have to get through this, we think, and then we can start living. There’s a quote I love from Douglas Coupland about this:
“When you’re young, you always feel that life hasn’t yet begun — that “life” is always scheduled to begin next week, next month, next year, after the holidays — whenever. But then suddenly you’re old and the scheduled life didn’t arrive. You find yourself asking, ‘Well then, exactly what was it I was having — that interlude — the scrambly madness — all that time I had before?”
All that time I had before, I was too busy focusing on what would come next, and how good it would be. How I’d feel, when I finally “made” it, and I was never thinking about — or enjoying — the moments I was living in.
Waiting for my life to actually kick off, I was ignoring and missing out on all the living that was right there, right in front of me. All the experience and the joy, everything.
I wouldn’t even commit to anything long term, because I looked at all the things I did that weren’t contributing to realizing my dreams as just being temporary. My relationships, my friendships, even some of my passions.
Looking back now, I know my life began when it began. It certainly didn’t spring into being the moment I started my first company, or the moment I signed my record deal, or the moment I got into (or dropped out of) law school.
My real life was already in motion then, in each of those periods, and they contributed to it — but they never defined it conclusively.
When I used to fail, I’d always think about it as though I was just delaying starting my new, better life. I wasn’t really fucking up, I told myself, just pushing my time line back a little. I wasn’t living my real life yet, so none of it really mattered.
That was incredibly freeing, once. But now I think that just imprisoned me. It made me feel as though there wasn’t anything important in the world directly around me, and that stopped me from doing so many things, and making so many memories.
Real life is every single passing second though. Real life is today, when I’m sick. It’s not something I enjoy experiencing. I’ve been up all night, and I feel incredibly run down. I need a blanket, a hot drink and a hug. But I’m writing anyway, and later I’ll catch up on my work.
I know that this is all a part of the story now, and that my life won’t be any better or any more real if I close more deals, if I get a better job, if I start a new company, if I make more money. All of that would be nice, sure — but it’s not going to invalidate all the stuff I’m doing now. The days I’m living through.
Real life is doing the little annoying things that just have to get done and get dealt with. Real life is very rarely going to match up to what I think it should all be like. Real life is hard. And real life is wonderful.
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