A few weeks ago, I found the yearbook from my Senior year of high school. What a trip it was to open the pages, look at the pictures, and read what was written. Now each year, our school would feature an extra write-up on five members of the graduating class: big picture and a paragraph about who they are and what they want to be when they grow up. I was one of those kids. I talked about wanting to perform on Broadway, learn to speak five languages, and eventually teach theatre in a university setting. Privately, I pictured being bi-coastal and forever single, having apartments in New York and L.A., a closet full of homemade quilts and a calico cat named Romeo. Rather specific, I know. My dreams back then were the dreams of a teenager: grand, broad, and a romanticized version of life.
As time went on, life took me down a different path, although the essence of those dreams lived on. I performed all over the world, learned to order McDonalds’ in about eight languages, and did get to teach and coach, just in another setting. My vision of life changed, and I planned carefully so the vision would come true. Career, own a home, marriage, kids and a dog became the new dream… better than the one before.
Whether in high school or today, most of us have a preconceived notion of what our lives will be. Like a movie, it plays over and over in our mind. We believe it will happen and make it happen. Everything goes according to plan, until one day, it doesn’t.
There are small changes, slight detours. They’re easy to adjust to. No major change of course. Then, there are others: the ones that come galloping in from left field and knock the wind out of you. These are the biggies. The real deal of life. Financial. Medical. Personal. When they happen, there’s no going back. Reality tilts. You’ll never be the same.
Subtle changes are simple. Change that’s an 8.0 on the Richter scale, out of the blue? That’s different. It has the power to devastate… if you let it, and if you’re not prepared. Yet, how can you prepare for something big, something you never could have – or would have – imagined?
You prepare by knowing that something big is guaranteed to happen.
Life is neither a movie nor a preconceived notion. Life is thrilling, brutal, exciting, and devastating. Big, beautiful, bad things happen. They will happen to you. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Fear of the unknown can be paralyzing, so we try to control the uncontrollable to minimize risk or minimize pain – loved ones, career, life. It’s impossible. It’s tilting at windmills. It’s a waste of time.
So change came quickly. Okay.
You got news that has rocked the way you look at the world forever. Right.
It’s scary. You’re afraid. You don’t know if you can do it. It hurts like hell. The feelings and fear are valid. Only you can decide what you’ll do though. Will you embrace the change and move into the unknown? Will it make you stronger, bolder? Will you dream and achieve big, regardless of the new direction? Or will you lose your balance and your way?
Recently, I had a career change come out of the blue. I’ve always thought I was great with change, but when my world tilted, I stumbled. I wasn’t prepared. It took me a minute to regain my footing. Now, I’m thrilled and energized by the future. I’m ready for the next adventure.
My world tilted again big time a few days ago. This time, I was prepared. The world does not look the same, and neither does the future. But what I’ve realized is that there is immense beauty in the new reality. It’s stunningly gorgeous. It’s just different, and sometimes, different is just right.
Someday, something really big is going to happen that rocks your world. And after that, another something will happen again. Be ready. Be bold. Be brave. Let go of control and live the life you’ve been given. Take the risk. Win or lose, you will rise again.