Hey, 27. (Change Would Do You Good)

I just had a birthday and celebrated another year of wedded bliss, and am feeling a bit reflective.

The husband and I just spent an extended weekend back home in good ol' Missouri.  It was lovely. While spending some quality time with my family, my mom asked the mandatory midwestern-mother question regarding the potential for my impending plans to procreate. She then reminded me that I was officially no longer following my own plan

Oh, Yes. My plan. 

My darling 21-year-old self put pen to paper and mapped out the next 10+ years of her/my life (see below).

22 years old- Master's Degree (check!)
23 years old- Engaged (check!) I'm not one for splitting hairs, but she was a little off.  I was engaged two weeks before turning 23.
24 years old- Married and done with internship (check!)
25 years old- Complete my first official year of a post-graduate school "real job" (check!)
26 years old- Have birthed my first child (sound of breaks coming to a screeching halt!)

Do you see the numbers listed below?  Mental math was never my thing. That, my friend, was me contemplating the spacing and timing of my FOUR future children.  Four children under the age of six by the time I was 32, or potentially four under the age of 9, that was still to be determined.  

Oh darling 21-year-old self.  You were adorable. You were obsessed with the show Brothers and Sisters and you aspired to be a midwestern version of Nora Walker, but you were adorable none the less. 

I have a point with all of this, I promise. 

Here I am at the ripe old age of 27 with no immediate plan to create an offspringIt's easy to look back and ponder in awe at the many ways I've changed and grown over these past several years, but it's far more difficult to anticipate what I'm going to want, think, and need in the years to come, which is why I found Dan Gilbert's TED Talk so fascinating.  If you have six minutes,  check it out!  If not, here were a few of my favorite quotes...

The End Of History Illusion

What I want to convince you today is that all of us are walking around with an illusion, an illusion that history, our personal history, has just come to an end, that we have just recently become the people that we were always meant to be and will be for the rest of our lives....At every age, from 18 to 68 in our data set, people vastly underestimated how much change they would experience over the next 10 years. We call this the ‘end of history’ illusion.
The bottom line is, time is a powerful force. It transforms our preferences. It reshapes our values. It alters our personalities. We seem to appreciate this fact, but only in retrospect. Only when we look backwards do we realize how much change happens in a decade. It’s as if, for most of us, the present is a magic time. It’s a watershed on the timeline. It’s the moment at which we finally become ourselves.
— Dan Gilbert, The Psychology of Your Future Self, TEDTalk

I definitely fall victim to The End of History Illusion, and my bet is that you do as well. As I look back and reflect on the experiences I've had, I can't help but think to myself how dramatically I've changed over the years, but yet as I contemplate huge decisions that will impact my future (e.g., like buying a house within the next year), I tend to think my future self will be only a slight variation of my current self.

I've always been fairly nervous and hesitant about making large decisions, and the way Mr. Gilbert's talk ends, doesn't exactly do much to calm my anxieties. He basically says, Our preferences and morals and even our personality will continue to change quite dramatically over the years, but it's hard for anyone to really even grasp how and in what ways, but that decisions you make today can dramatically impact the happiness of your future self.  

If you are in any way like my former 21-year-old self  (aka the person who makes lists of what the next 10 years of your life should look like) then you might also possibly like Pema Chodron (Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change).  She mirrors a lot of what Dan Gilbert was saying, and also expands on the fact that the one constant in life is that literally everything changes. In addition, she gives a lot of advice and guidance on how to adjust your mindset so that you're less stressed when inevitable things happen like growing apart from people, or when you have big decisions to make, or when life isn't going according to plan, like this jewel:

Once we have the fixed idea “this is me,” then we see everything as a threat or a promise—or something we couldn’t care less about....
— Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change

I liked that one. This whole "this is me" or "this is you" notion just isn't fair.  Humans are fluid creatures that continuously change (granted, less dramatically the older we get) and to put a person in a box, or to put yourself in a box just doesn't make sense, and it can easily interfere with so many opportunities to learn and grow and better yourself, or to allow those you love to do the same. 

When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for this is freedom—freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human.
— Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change

In other words, all I can really do is to learn from the choices of my past. Recognize strong consistencies within myself, and make big life choices accordingly, with the expectation that my 37-year-old self will probably also feel the need to speak about the current version of myself in third person because she will be that far removed from who I am today... hopefully in all positive ways.

 

In summary, I hope to live my life like a cheesy Kay Jewelers commercial.  Like the great Jane Seymour said, "If your heart is open, love will always find its way in." 

Live Beautifully,

AL

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