Several years ago, I was at World Market with a boy I loved, looking at dining room tables, and he’d just said he liked a certain one because it was the right size to work at and have the person across from you rest their feet in your lap. I replied, “I want to be her. I want to be the girl with her feet in your lap.”
It was a weird thing to say, but at the time it was a pledge to what I thought was a perfect picture of everything I wanted. The comfort and security of a boyfriend, contentment in spending nights curled up on the couch. But then I spent the rest of our relationship pushing the seams of any routines we built, restless for constant movement and change, ripping apart the chances at having what I said would make me happy.
The truth is, the words that tumbled out of my mouth that day looking at tables were my dreams for a decade from now. I didn’t want any furniture that couldn’t fit inside a backpack, didn’t want attachments to a person unless they lived with a suitcase half-packed—in case Orbitz had a special on plane tickets to Iceland. I still don’t, but it’s taken me years to realize that. It’s taken me years to even consider living in the day where my feet are planted, and to be honest, I don’t think I’ll be representing our country in the “living in the present” Olympics anywhere close to soon.
I am learning, however, that I have the power to choose, and I have the power to change my mind. In my last post I wrote about the pressures of trying to win the races society has set up for us, and that relationship was just one area where I etched in stone the bucket list of what I thought my dreams should be; if this person checked so many of my boxes on paper, why should it matter if we’d met ten years too soon?
As it turns out, it does matter, because timing is everything and not just during a stand-up routine.
You can spend four years—or eight, or seventeen—working towards a goal, and then wake up one morning and realize it’s not what you want. Or that you never wanted it. Or some messy omelet of in-between the two. And it’s okay.
It’s okay to take a sharp right turn, even when the path ahead looks clear. It’s okay to stick it out in some part-time job that pays the bills and gives you time to paint during the day, even as your friends rack up “real adulting” points. It’s okay to choose the stability of a cubicle that allows you to save money and spend time with your community. It’s okay to disappoint or bewilder everyone in your life because your truth is different than the story they wrote for you.
Because money, dining room tables, degrees? All of those are ripe for upcycling. But time? It’s never coming back. And sometimes, the reason you needed to write the rough draft is to prove to yourself that you have the courage and the discipline to chuck it in the trash and face the blank page once more.