I had coffee with my girlfriend last week and spent a majority of the get-together lamenting about how I feel like I am not doing enough with my life. She felt the same way. We both tore off chunks of our chocolate chip muffin and shoved them in our mouths as if those morsels would satiate us and cease our thinking on this topic any further. It didn’t work.
It doesn’t work for a lot of women, it seems. I am around professional women all day (typically attorneys) and I can’t think of one that has felt she is doing everything she should be doing. One feels like she should stay home more with her kids; another feels that she should express her artistic side more by joining a band; another feels like she should get more involved in her local community; another feels like she should be a first grade room mother for her son. I always feel like I should be doing more to help the under-privileged.
Here I am: a woman who worked throughout college and obtained a bachelor’s degree; worked as a Fitness Director; went to law school and obtained a JD; married a wonderful man and had two adorable children; beat out others for a great job with lots of flexibility; is blessed with good lungs for running; lives in an awesome neighborhood; has the most loving and accepting family; sits on the boards of two non-profit organizations; and can still eat a pint of ice cream a night! What more could I ask for from life?
Obviously, with the way I think, LOTS!
I am part of a large crowd of women. Should that make me feel better? It doesn’t. It’s not that I want to stop pursuing ideals and goals that I set for myself, I just want to stop feeling like they should all be completed by 5 pm. I want to stop beating myself up about not taking Maria to lunch when my colleague tells me about her lunch with her daughter. I want to pat myself on the back when I take Maria and Mario to a board meeting to let them hear how people who are less privileged than us have to live. I want to want a lot out of this life; I just want to do it keeping a smile on my face. As writer Elizabeth Gilbert says “Lighten Up!”
Let’s just anticipate that we (all of us) will disappoint ourselves somehow in the decade to come. Go ahead and let it happen. Let somebody else be a better mother than you for one afternoon. Let somebody else go to art school. Let somebody else have a happy marriage, while you foolishly pick the wrong guy. (Hell, I’ve done it; it’s survivable.) While you’re at it, take the wrong job. Move to the wrong city. Lose your temper in front of the boss, quit training for that marathon, wolf down a truckload of cupcakes the day after you start your diet. Blow it all catastrophically, in fact, and then start over with good cheer. This is what we all must learn to do, for this is how maps get charted—by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds. So just march on. Future generations will thank you—trust me—for showing the way, for beating brave new footpaths out of wonky old mistakes.
Fall flat on your face if you must, but please, for the sake of us all, do not stop.
Map your own life.