Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time. – Victor Hugo
When I was twenty, I decided I wanted to write a book. I was studying English, and had always been fond of reading and writing, so I figured it was time to seize on that desire (and also to prove to my father that an English degree had value after all). The things was, though, I was busy. I was involved in sports, and video games, and friends. Plus, there were the girls. I had a girlfriend, which took time, but I also knew it wasn’t going to last: I had to keep my eye out for another girl who might be foolish enough to date me after my girlfriend grew tired of putting up with me.
There was a lot going on, and then this whole book idea on top of all that. So I did what most of us do when it comes to setting goals we don’t care enough about–I gave myself loads of time. The goal was this: To have a book out before I turned 30. With that in mind, I went on chasing girls, wasting my summer and winter breaks, and skipping through my twenties like I had all the time in the world.
At 29 years and 4 months, my book came out. It was self-published because who had the time to try to find a publisher (or take the time to write something worthy of one)? I didn’t. I had a goal to meet, a deadline. And since I had spent the first eight years reminding myself that “I had plenty of time,” the final sixteen months or so really pressed in on me. I finished the project with a little margin, and it got me wondering: “What if I had really dug in during my twenties?”
I’m slowly working on a second book, but haven’t even made a goal yet. The fear is, of course, with a goal comes pressure and what if I fail to deliver? That is what conventional wisdom says. But truth is, that isn’t quite the fear. The fear is, what if I succeed but it is really, really hard? What if things are uncomfortable? Self-inflicted discomfort, what goal is worth all that?
Forget writing a book and insert the myriad ways most of us do this with our lives? We create goals that do not stretch us, do not bend us, do not shape us, and do not grow us. We are caged by our own indolence, trapped in imaginary cages all of our own design. And we wonder how we got here; why we feel there is something more God has for us.
Think of your own twenties. Did you savor the moments? Did you hone your craft? Did you relish the lack of restriction your life likely enjoyed?
For most of us the answer is no.
And so that means something of our past. It means we didn’t make best use of the time. Join the long parade.
But, the glorious part of this, is that we do not have to march along in this line forever. We do not have to march in it a moment longer. Yes, our past may be speckled with wasted time and misused opportunities. But we do not live in the past. We are guided by it, informed by it, haunted by it, emboldened by it, but we do not live there. Forever, we live in the present.
So where is that present taking us, and how will our future selves view it when it too fleetingly fades from present into past? Will it be “sort of fun” and not a whole lot else? Or could it be something entirely more? Will it be the stuff of risks? Of long nights and early mornings. Of more time with family and bolder connections than before. Of deep laughs and tired tears. Too much of the time, I’ve embraced existing when living was just a sleepless night away. I’ve gone to bed early when a tale was yet to be told. I’ve hit the snooze rather than hitting the day running into some good work planned in advance for me to do. Works of passion, however great or blessedly small.
It is out there for each of us. Or we can put it off for one more second, one more hour, one more day, one more week, one more year, one more lifetime.
It is out there for each of us.