If there’s one thing that the whole pandemic experienced really impressed on me, it’s that you need to live for NOW. You need to be who you want to be NOW. We grew up in a world advising five and ten year plans, but too often people get bogged down just trying to plan all that. Or they do the opposite and plan nothing and just hope their future magically turns out the way they want. The truth is, the best path to follow is a little bit of both.
I just returned from a visit with my mom, who is a big proponent of the “One day I’ll be happy” method of future planning. There’s no actual plan, so every year she shifts it farther in the future and picks some random age she insists she’s always said she would be happy. She’s not actually working toward a specific goal, but rather lives life by only making changes when absolutely forced to do so. When you live life this way, you have no actual control of anything in your future. You have to seek out your own happiness rather than just waiting for it to find you.
A Shift in Perspective
When my best friend suddenly passed away, it hit me hard. One day she was here, and then she was gone. It wasn’t a long drawn-out illness or an accident. She wasn’t feeling well and passed out while making toast. Then she couldn’t breathe and then her heart gave out. She was barely in her 40s. After this I’ve been unable to shake the thought that I could literally just fall over and die at any moment. It shifted my perspective dramatically to focus on living for now, and not living for some imaginary “one day” in the future.
The first thing I did was go into full purging mode and sold off all the stuff I had been squirreling away to sell “one day” when it was worth money. I decided that day was now. I pulled out my Garbage Pail Kid cards, my Beanie Babies, everything I had been saving for some future fortune. After doing a bit of research, I realized I’d have to keep it all another 20-30 years for it to actually be worth big bucks. Why wait until I’m 70? So I sold it all on eBay and never looked back. Now I have more space in my attic and extra money to play with in my PayPal account.
Don’t Dictate the Future for Others
My other biggest perspective shift happened years ago, when I opened my costume store. I always wanted to grow up and have my own costume shop and make costumes all the time for people. So that’s what I did. Unfortunately, my dream was to have my mom and grandma work with me and be part of the shop. I even named it Three Muses after the three of us. They were such a big influence on my love of costuming and teaching me how to make things, I wanted to create a future where we could all be together and all have jobs doing something fun. And for years they led me along making me think it was a great plan.
I couldn’t have gotten the business going without them- my mom helped out at conventions, while my grandma would spend Halloween season helping me at the shop. Those were my happiest times with the store. So I invested all my future planning around having a family business, and never really planned for anyone else to take over. And that would eventually be the downfall of the business, because after 11 years of running everything on my own, I was burnt out and finally realizing nobody was ever moving here to help. I made the mistake of trying to plan their futures, when I should have been planning my own as an individual.
It would have been a bit more helpful if they had just told me upfront they were never going to move to Jacksonville. But because I believed in this happy family business future, I never planned for the day my one employee left for another job when I was eight months pregnant. And then I got hit with my other mistake- believing my mom would at least move here when I had a baby so she could watch her grandchild grow up.
But no. Even when she had no job, no house of her own and no husband, she chose to stay put rather than take a leap and change her life path. I know she would have had a better, happier life if she would have just been brave enough to make that change. So instead she’s gotten to watch her grandchild grow up on Facebook and see him a few times a year. The whole thing always just makes me sad, so I try not to dwell on it. I just always imagined my child would grow up with family around. Instead he pretty much just had me since no family lives near and my husband was in the military and often gone. I’m incredibly grateful my husband is now retired and a wonderful father who is actually around. That’s one thing I didn’t grow up with, and I’m so happy my son at least has that.
So I guess my whole point is this- find what makes you happy, and start working on that TODAY. And make sure whatever it is, it doesn’t involve you depending on someone else for success or happiness. Life is going to throw all kinds of crazy stuff at you, and the world is changing faster than ever. If you just stand around hoping for happiness, or looking to someone else to create it for you, you’ll never get there.
*Just a side note if my mom happens to read this and gets upset. This is just me being honest and saying what’s in my heart. I am disappointed I won’t ever have the family business future I envisioned, and sad my son doesn’t know what it’s like to have a grandma around. I’m sad every time I get a call and hear all about my mom’s miserable problems that I can’t do anything about. But I choose to seek out happiness and enjoy the time we have together. I appreciate the bits and pieces I get. And I have to stop and remind myself not to hope we’ll be together one day where we could be doing happy things all the time rather than a few times a year. My heart broke a bit when I finally accepted nobody was moving here. And I’m not going to give that thought any more hope because I just end up getting hurt. And writing about it like this is what helps me get over it and deal with it.