I have to have it all figured out.
It started off as a rumor and then it became the game changer. That’s what I think at least.
Somewhere, somehow, this myth rumbled into a rumor and this rumor tumbled onto the lips of a lot of us: I have to figure everything out.
I have to know where I am going. I have to know what will happen next. I have to know the direction. The 5-year plan. The next left-hand turn. The Big What’s Next.
I’m 25. I know close to nothing. But I believe in these things.
Know that this stage in your life, this very moment, will be the one that other people point out one day and say, “Oh, I knew close to nothing and I survived.” So there’s that. You don’t have to know everything. You don’t even have to know what’s in your bag for the journey yet. But know whether you want to stay here forever or if you want to be the kind of person who starts fires and laughs like nothing hurts them. People will tell you the point of this stage in your life is to make mistakes, and be young, and figure out the things that make you happy. Believe them. Add “learn how to be a good person” into that mix and get moving.
Know that life doesn’t shimmy out a red carpet for you when you reach adulthood. Half the time, you won’t even realize you’ve been entrusted the keys to the next chapter. Know how to celebrate the little victories on your own when it seems like the world hasn’t noticed a change or a shift or a new journey unfurling. Find people who celebrate little things too. They are the keepers of this lifetime, the ones with victory in their veins.
Know what mistakes are worth it enough to make again. Know what mistakes will never be worth it. Learn lessons the hard way. Take note of these things: The look on someone’s face. The tremble in their fingers. The way their cheeks turn from thawed rose to white. Memorize those kinds of looks on people’s faces. All the twists and contortions. Save them in your pocket like a somber memory as a reminder that we get to make choices. Everyday. And those choices do make impact that extend beyond just our own little lives.
Know how to be a role model. Or at least know the stuff & substance of role models. You can totally go the celebrity route and make some big stink about how you are NOT a role model and the world should never follow your example. No one is stopping you. But you’re probably starting to realize that the years go by quicker as you get older. And life gets more fragile. And people sweep out of the scenes more often. Role models make active investments in the life of others. They store up treasures. They do noble stuff. It isn’t the worst gig.
Know how to quit something. How to just puff up your chest real big and be done with something. Let go of the things that no longer make you feel alive. The things you’ve looked at for far too long and said, “Well maybe tomorrow it will be different.” Quitting fuels the art of letting go, so it would be good to learn how to let some things go– Arguments. Problems. Bad habits. Political debates on Facebook walls. People who don’t really see you beyond who you used to be. Here’s a promise: Holding on won’t always mean everything the way it does in this moment.
Know how to eat. Real food. Don’t be afraid of food. We all have problem areas. We all have been in the trenches of body misery. But starving feels like a cover-up for the real root of the issue: the fear of being more than this. We have to learn to let that go eventually. Figure out how to taste food again. How to really taste it and savor it over good conversations with people who take you as you are. Food doesn’t always have to rule you; it’s a tough lie to shatter but freedom feels like sunlight after a New England winter.
Know how to push the boundaries. Know that boundaries are to be pushed. Surround yourself with people who have fire in their eyes. I don’t know about you, but I like the thought of touching knees and elbows with people who are gonna change the world one day.
Know how to sit with yourself. I mean, really sit with yourself. No moving. No flinching. No reaching for the phone to play tag with someone who doesn’t serve you beyond making you feel less lonely. Stop scrolling. Delete some apps. Unfriend some people. Lessen the load. Once upon a time, we had none of this connectivity. And people used to have no choice but to listen to their breathing. I want to know: are you a slow breather or are your juts of breath quick, quick, quick? Learn to sit with yourself so much that you can stare strangers in the eyes with hellfire confidence and say, “I know exactly what sits at the root of me. And I’m not afraid of it no longer.”
Know what breaks your heart. If you don’t know that yet then get out there and find something that breaks your heart. And pin your hours to it. And your spirit to it. And your commitment to it.
Know how to be your own best friend. And when you figure it out, write a book on it. Write a whole stinking novel. Encyclopedias. Anthologies. Spend your whole entire life breathing into those volumes. Don’t turn back.
Know that dignity is a big deal. Maybe the biggest deal. Know that everyone– no matter who they serve, or worship, or love– deserves dignity. Don’t stomp on someone’s dignity. Don’t steamroll over it with words or judgements. It’s already hard enough to give yourself dignity at the end of the day; it’s heartless to make it an endless obstacle course for someone else.
Know how to prove other people wrong. And know how to do it for yourself and not others. Bitterness is an awful sidekick and revenge doesn’t serve our lives though we live in a culture that romanticized the concept of it. Fixing yourself only to push it in other people’s faces will sometimes make you feel even emptier. But doing something for you? Because it’s what you so deserve? That’s the winning lottery ticket, babycakes.
Learn how to how to prove others wrong because you– yourself– have always deserved to break out from the boxes the world has learned to put you inside of.
Know how to look outside of yourself and recognize how very, very, very tiny your feet are in comparison to the size of this world. You’re small stuff. So am I. Know how to ignore people who tell you’re small like it’s a bad thing… like all the greatest movements didn’t come out of something that first started out small. Know that you may never come across the impact that you make. Know that half of the world– three-fourths and more– may never know who you are. So maybe the goal shouldn’t be “to be known.” And if it still is, figure out why you want that in the first place.
Know that one pair of feet will make a movement seem impossible but one solid idea, mixed with hearts that believe in it enough to back it, will make the thing unquenchable. Fires will start over that one idea.
Know how to start fires. Whatever that looks like for you. Know how to get on the ground and get your hands dirty with the mess of it all. Know that it takes grit, and guts, and courage to make a difference. The world will always need people who care enough to make a difference so don’t miss your casting call for that.
Know that if you don’t step out, someone else will. And they’ll probably have a really awesome time doing it. Don’t miss the fun.
Know that it will never be easy. And it might never be comfortable. And you are going to wake up some mornings and have no idea what to put on your body, or what food to eat, or which heart to choose. Know that knowing isn’t everything… Knowing the outcome, knowing the direction, knowing the point… we never got promised that. It’s time to stop looking for those empty promises.
Know this: There is no map. There is no manual. There is no brochure. There is no right or wrong way to do this life thing. As cheesy as it sounds, there’s sound reason behind going with your heart– what your heart finds to be good, and true, and real. Know what you want and stop apologizing for it. It’s been placed inside of you for a reason. So stop shrouding it with pity songs. And stop placing it on pedestals that you can never reach.
All of life is a big, steeping journey with many destinations but even more dotted lines. Don’t get so stuck on the destinations that you forget about the moving and the shaking and the glory of growing pains. Suck in the air when you feel you’ve arrived somewhere. Smile. Laugh. Take a photo. Make some sort of memory and say something wise for the moment. But don’t wait too much longer to pack up your bag and keep going on your way.
The dotted lines are the silent, unspoken victories of this lifetime.
Some would say everything that has ever mattered lives within those dotted lines.