By Garrett Drew Ellis

What do you do when looking around, you realize that your life hasn’t gone the way you want it to?

Don’t Live for the Moment, Live for the Legacy” by Brianna Wiest made me think about a time in my life when I felt as if I were the only person in the world who held regrets. 

I was 30 years old when I began to feel this way. Feeling as if I had stepped over the midway point of my life, I realized that I hadn’t done or seen or felt a lot of the things that as a kid, I had dreamed of doing and seeing and feeling. Looking back at that time, I felt as if the first half of my journey was not what I expected it to be. It made me sad. 

For the next five years, these questions and emotions burned themselves into my heart and head. Not wanting my future to feel the same way that my past did, I woke up every morning trying to figure out what my next step was going to be and I went to sleep at night worrying about whether I had been successful at it or not. For five long, confusing years, I became obsessed with redeeming my life.

Doing so gave me migraines.

My hips and shoulders became stiff as if they were anchored down by the weight of an invisible world.

And I can’t prove it scientifically, but the stress also gave me kidney stones. Made it very hard to pee.

It wasn’t until another moment in time, one month before my 35th birthday, that I had the quintessential epiphany. I was so tired, (emotionally, physically and spiritually) that it was as if out of necessity and an instinctual need to live, the truth of the situation forced itself through my tissue and landed right before my eyes.

I realized that I had been misinterpreting what it means to be a “success.”

In that moment, I discerned that success is best defined by longevity. It is not a short-term matter; winning a certain job or earning a certain dollar amount in a year is not the definition of success. Success is the culmination of a life well lived; a life that when taken as a whole, leads to a prosperous ending. When I was 70 years old, what will I want to be able to say? That I lived with regret? Or that I lived wholeheartedly?

When people celebrate retirement or a 50-year marriage, they are not celebrating the promotion they might have received 20 years prior or the house they bought as a young couple. They are celebrating the fact that when everything is taken as a whole, their living had been holistic. They might feast around a table with family and friends because a journey had not been taken but had been lived.

Defining success this way might mean living through moments that on the surface, don’t produce joy. You might have to grieve the loss of a loved one or experience a heartbreak or two; perhaps, you might not only hurt but hurt someone else (hopefully not on purpose). It is hard to hear but those grievous moments add to a life that is fully human: both vice and virtue paint a full picture of what it means to live and to live completely.

At 35, I decided that I not only would I live for today but for my tomorrow as well. I did not have to celebrate the regrets of my past but I did have to acknowledge them, for in them were moments when I grew.

The moments I live now, I look forward to being one of many. I want to write books upon books about the beautiful moments, both sad and joyous, that marked a life that was lived in totality.

No regrets. I am determined to celebrate.

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