I think a lot of us struggle making peace with where we are and where our lives have taken us. We look at our current situation, and then back at the road traveled to getting here and think, “maybe I could have done things differently”, and indeed we would be right in saying, but this then leaves us feeling unsatisfied, unaccomplished. I like to think of it a bit differently, after all, every decision made up until this point, everything that has ever happened to us in our lives is irreversible and that will never change — what I think we need to do is listen to our lives.
How have I gotten here? How can I use everything, whether seemingly positive or negative to my advantage to create the best possible life for myself, from this day forward.
A dozen years ago, I finished college, couldn’t find a job, and ended up spending a number of years bouncing around making pretty good money by working in various restaurants around town. In the the next three years, aside from restaurants, I worked at a children’s museum in their marketing department, I went to real estate school, I interviewed to be a teacher, and I applied to an ungodly amount of jobs doing anything you could possibly imagine under the sun. I couldn’t figure it out, there was no North star pointing me in the right direction, and the more I acquaint myself with the world, I discover that this is commonplace for a lot of us. We enter the real world, trying to figure it out, but that’s hard to do as an eighteen or twenty-two year old. After all, we aren’t supposed to die at eighty or ninety with the same understanding of the world as when we first set out on our own in our early twenties.
So, I went to grad school, got a decent paying job in consulting shop, but that didn’t feel right either, nothing felt right. So I started over again and moved 500 miles north to Virginia and jumped into restaurants full time.
But, hadn’t I done everything right? I did what my parents, teachers and society told me to do, right?
Soon, I was the chef and partner of a restaurant here, but it wasn’t working as we had thought — so I bowed out after five years. Along the way, I made a mess of my relationships, I wasn’t making any money — I was making all of these sacrifices, but for what? So, I bounced again, but this time to Atlanta to open up another restaurant — my restaurant, but then that went to hell. It never got off the ground.
I felt like everything I had worked towards those last seven years in Virginia was wasted. Once again, I couldn’t see where my life was taking me. I withdrew from the world, my girlfriend, everything. I slept all day, pouted at night and day after day felt sorry for myself, until one day, I decided to just get back in the game — I needed to do whatever I could to revive myself. I needed to take that first step, however small that might be.
So I did.
I started writing again… And then, things started falling into place. My reach through writing exploded, and then that translated into social media — ten thousand followers on Facebook soon became fifty and it has more than doubled since — all in about a year. Momentum started building and the next thing I knew, I was self-publishing my first book back in June. I was getting opportunities to speak at events (and actually get paid), podcasts started reaching out to me, and the list goes on.
So, here I am today. Not in a million years would I have thought to have ended up here at this exact point and in this place.
At one point in my life, I thought I’d be sitting at a desk making deals all day long, then I started thinking I’d be working in restaurant kitchens until I was sixty, but now my life has taken a different turn towards having the opportunity to make a bigger impact in the world through my work, and since, I’ve gotten paid to do things I never would have dreamed of.
As all of this stuff falls into place, I look around with tremendous gratitude. Ten years ago, lost, clueless, and habitually drunk in order to hide the pain of a life not yet understood, I never could have guessed that I’d be here in this coffeeshop, writing these words.
Everything in our lives make us who we are. It’s the pieces of our pasts that have and continue to mold us into the people we’re supposed to become. We have be open to that. The challenge and pain I dealt with in trying to discover who I was supposed to be, readied me for where and who I am today — all of it has given me the strength to keep pressing on, and it will continue to do just that well into the future, in ways I could most likely never imagine.
I’m here, not because I chose every correct chess move along the way. Also, sometimes things happen to us and we’re not ready for them, and that’s certainly been true for me. That’s how life works, as Maya Angelou said,
I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.
Regardless, every move made along my life’s journey has taken me closer to the person I would eventually become. Am I that person yet? Hell no. I still have the challenges and pain that we all suffer through in life. Just last week I had a challenging personal setback — do I know how to properly handle it? No. Will I properly maneuver through it? I don’t know, I sure hope to, but I’m going to do my best and then the cards will fall as they may. The pitfalls and the winding roads I’ve encountered thus far in life, they are the things that have made me into the person I am today much more so than the victories and the triumphs.
I realized a few years ago that I didn’t have all of the answers and that I didn’t have to pretend like I did. Perhaps the goal was just to be better than I was the day before. And tomorrow? Hopefully better than today. It’s an evolution, and it doesn’t stop until we take our final breaths on this earth.
None of us are here in this exact place, as a result of envisioning for ourselves this exact existence five or ten years ago. Life happens, and we change as people — hopefully for the better.
The compilation of wins, losses and not-quite-sures has given me a better understanding of the world than I could have ever comprehended just a few years ago, and those experiences are far more valuable than the alternative — if everything had always neatly fallen into place. Our job isn’t to have all the answers, to be in the exact right moment at every point in our lives, because that doesn’t really exist, and even if it did, it’s not like we could go back and rewrite history. I think our job as humans is to acknowledge that we are here today with an opportunity to do some good in the world, to grow ourselves through experiences, and to be continually maturing into the frail, old people that will eventually die. Hopefully those old people are beautiful souls who have made this world a better place for their having been here.
Here I am. I’m not where I thought I’d be, but I sure am glad to be here. In other words, I’m where I’m supposed to be, not where I thought I’d be.Everyday is an opportunity to become a better version of myself.