How do we succeed in life? What does that even mean? Is it something that is defined by environment that we grew up in, or by the education we received? Is it defined by our parents, friends, or religion?
I have been wrestling with this particular idea recently as the thought of my inevitable mortality lurked in the back of my mind.
When we are young many of us yearn to start our new lives. We wonder what our first job will be. Will I be a famous actor? A doctor who cures a terminal disease? Will I meet someone special? We line up these precious dreams in neat little rows and imagine what life will be like once they are achieved.
Recognition for great deeds done in the name of a common good.
Famous for our artistic talent now displayed proudly around the world.
Praise and adulations for heroic acts done for your family, for your country.
When we are young we sit, starry eyed, eager to start down a path so clearly laid out before us, and when that day comes we leap into the world. A world full of potential and promise, one where we will surely avoid the vices of humanity, be incorruptible to the evil which lies beneath smiling faces, be impervious to life’s tragedies that lurk, ready to ensnare the unwary.
But that was a lie….
As soon as we are left to our own devices, life becomes a struggle to survive. This struggle begins to crowd out our youthful hopes, replacing them with cynical apathy. We begin to realize this, slowly, unaware of the minutes ticking by as we plod forward with our lives.
“I’ll learn to dance, learn to sing, learn to fly next year. Right now I’m far to busy.” But days turn to weeks, then to years and our attitude morphs into something more “practical”.
“I remember I wanted to dance, but this job is far more important. I don’t have time to think about the silly dreams of children, I need to put food on the table, I need to provide for my family, I need to think about that next raise.” But as the years wear on our attitude changes once again.
“I wish I would have learned to dance, but I was so busy. I wish I could sing, there is so much I wanted to say. I wish I could fly, there are so many places I wanted to go.”
As I sit here I find myself awash in excuses for why I have not finished my personal and professional projects. I have too much to do at home, I have too much on my mind, I simply want to relax just for today. I am hovering dangerously close to the line between excuses and regret.
But there is a voice in my life, one who talks like I once did. Full of dreams, wonder and aspirations. I see myself in her, as I was so long ago, ready to conquer the world. She looks to me for guidance, for comfort, for understanding of the way things will be.
What kind of father would I be if I gave into regret? What path would she then choose? A life without dreams is a life without hope. A life without hope is a life unlived.
It is easy to say I will wait till tomorrow. It is hard to say I will do it today. But little by little I chip away at the walls that hide my dreams, catching brief glimpses of what lies just out of reach, working to stave off regret for just one more day