For the first part of last year, I was working way too much. My friends told me to slow down, take more naps, spend more time outdoors, etc. So I did. I dropped some projects, stepped back from some roles, said no to some opportunities. And for the first few weeks, it felt great. I had time to read books again, and watch TV with my daughter, and have coffee with friends. I felt like maybe I’d returned to my true self . . . until I didn’t feel that way.
In the last few weeks, I’ve started to feel antsy, and my productivity has suffered. Apparently, I need a certain amount of chaos and loads of deadlines in order to accomplish more. What’s that old adage? If you want something done, ask a busy person.
But I think a bigger question is at play here. Now that I’m entering a new phase (the empty nest era), I’m wondering if the time has come to kick back and enjoy life or do the opposite . . . shift things into high gear and do something big.
When I was a child and people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I’d say, “I don’t know, but I know I want to help people. I want to make a difference.” I had this abiding certainty that I was put on this earth to do something great. People would say, “That’s cute, kid, but not everyone can be president.” They told me just being a good person was enough, and I think that’s mostly true. I think just in living a good life, we make a difference.
But what if those feelings I had as a child were not passing fancy? What if they were real? What if I was put here to do something important, and I knew it the way kids know so many things that we dismiss? Is it arrogant to think it? And if I give myself permission to believe it, does that mean I’ll have to go back to being crazy busy all the time? Can I change the world without changing the life I love?
I have a friend who says, do what you want to do right now, always. If you want to gaze at the clouds, do it. If you want to change the world, do that. In other words, throw all the rules out the window, throw out all the judgments and self-criticism and analysis, and just do what your heart is calling you to do in that moment.
Maybe I do know why I’m here, I’ve just forgotten. Maybe if I stop trying so hard to figure it out, it will come to me, kind of like that song that is on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t remember it until you give up trying. And it might come on a relaxing walk or in a focused meeting with a colleague. I’m not going to worry about that anymore. I’ve realized I don’t need to keep looking for my path. I’m already on it. I just need to trust where it leads.