We were at church on Sunday, singing along with the worship, when I felt this little pang. You see, for practically as much of my life as I can remember, I've been singing at church. Though I never pursued music professionally like my siblings, it's something by which I identify myself, particularly in a church community. "Oh, you're that singer." Recently, because of changing churches and, of course, caring for two small children, it's something I've stepped away from. I'll be the first to admit that having a jealous desire to be on stage at church is evidence that my heart isn't in the right place to begin with; and, also, because of how my life looks right now, I've assured myself that it is not the time to participate in such things.
I watched the girl on stage, singing, smiling, and I actually thought to myself, "Gosh, she seems young." There was a youthfulness to her face and something in her countenance, her presence, and enthusiasm, all telling of her age. And I almost chuckle to think that I told myself, "It's her time now."
That thought made me feel a million years old. Am I really adult enough that I need to be stepping aside to the younger ones, the ones making and finding their own ways? Is it now my role to clear the paths for the ones who go rather than tread the path myself?
Naturally, I still have ambitions.
I have responsibilities, too. Stability where once there was none. I live a certain way of life, which I suppose I could adjust, but am really pretty happy with. I have this picture of who I want to be now.
When I graduated college, I thought I had a picture too. I felt like the real me was deep inside and ready to burst out and just live and be, so I was constantly seeking what I needed to draw her out. I was sure adulthood would be to obtain what I had so long been striving for. I'd finally feel it within my clutches and then I would know and I would feel sturdy and rooted.
That's probably pretty normal. We are young and we think we know what we want out of life. But we make the unfortunate mistake of assuming that growing up is grasping hold of something, when, in actuality, it's really learning and refining the practice of letting go.
The older I get, the more I strip away, the more I give up, the more I lay to rest. I do these things in the name of who I am and am meant to be. It's not that I've arrived or that I'm self-actualized; it's that I no longer feel the need to fight for it tooth-and-nail. Instead, I find greater peace in laying down arms (roles, ideas, things I thought I would accomplish) to focus on the smaller aspirations and meaningful pieces that make up the greatest part of me. I surrender the other things to make way for the most important things.
I remember assuming that the grown-ups who said "I would have liked to..." but never did were the sad ones. Maybe they were lazy or unlucky or just failures, I thought; but it was really too bad for them that their dreams escaped them. What I think now, what I've seen in the eyes, bright and steady, of the majority of those who have gone before me, is that the ones who said "I would have liked to..." but never did, probably found far greater happiness elsewhere. I'm sure they were happier than the ones who couldn't let go, the ones who spent their whole lives trying to find and have and grasp everything, and instead watching it all slip through their fingers in the end. The happy ones found that one thing--family, a hobby, a passion--and they clung to it with all their strength, even if it meant watching something else fall by the wayside. And in the end, for them, what they held on to was with them. It was nurtured, full grown, more fulfilling than they ever could have anticipated in the beginning.
Sometimes when you're still young, but not as young as some, it's easy to allow feelings of inadequacy to creep in. "I'm not working as hard as I once did," I've thought to myself; and I've said out loud more times than I could ever count, "I don't know why I'm so tired." I look at "kids" just starting out, positive they know which way to head, and so unbelievably confident and capable. I wonder if I ever was that way, and how in growing older, I've backtracked somehow?
But I think what I'm doing, what I hope I'm doing, in focusing on my family, in pursuing a simpler way of living, in dedicating myself to one craft and dream, is letting go of the other things that really would only stand in my way, when it comes down to it. I hope I'm digging into the things that matter. I hope I'm left standing with something bigger than I could have dreamed ten years ago. I hope it's a legacy.
In fact, if I could leave a legacy, it would be that I knew how to let go, to move with life, to ignore the unimportant, to forgive wrongs, and to pour myself into only the things that matter.