On any given afternoon in college, in the lull that hung between the last class and the first crack of the doors to the dining hall livermush, just about everyone from our small liberal arts college could be found the quad.
Most evenings, on my walk from my apartment down to the dining hall, I would bump into my friend Taylor at his post on the giant green lawn outlined with sidewalks and poo-berry trees. To set the stage: Taylor is one of those guys whose personality couldn’t be missed. He is the guy who just sees everyone without even looking, the friend who you always want to be around because you know you will leave with soar abs and drool on your shirt from nonstop spit-laughing. He exudes joy, laughter and levity. That Taylor, he’s just kind of the man. Back in our college days, Taylor was class clown meets student government president meets one-half of the cutest couple from the Class of 2011.
And to this day, when I think of Taylor, I have a permanent snapshot in my head of him slacklining on the quad.
In between two trees that greeted you like khaki-shorts-wearing Southern genetleman as you walked out of the Science building, Taylor secured rope-like webbing about three feet off the ground. (Picture tightrope walking, only without the big buildings and fancy leotards.) With one end of the rope tied to each sturdy tree trunk, it formed a line taut between the trees, yet had enough give that it created a trampoline-like feel beneath your feet. If you were any good at slacklining, you would find your balance and bob as you walked from one end of the line to the other.
If I was feeling particularly brave on my walk to dinner, I would shout to Taylor from the hill that sprawled down from our apartment complex down to the quad.
“TAAAAYYLORRRR! I want to try again!”
Before I even finished screaming, I’d bounce my way down the hill – flip-flops flipping and flopping, keys jingling on my college-themed lanyard, wet and messy post-workout bun like a rat’s nest on top of my head – all the way to the two trees.
“Alright. Remind me again, which foot should I step up with first? And wait… come here. Help me get up!” I’d beg as I reached for his shoulders, not even waiting for an answer.
Not being shy, I would heave all of my weight onto his shoulders and try and prop myself up onto the two-inch thick line. As it began to wobble, before I knew it my leg would sway slowly, then quickly – left, right; right,left – until gravity finally won. My balance would give out and in order to keep myself from eating the grass, I would hop off the line and land on my feet.
No matter how hard I tried or how many times I tried, I couldn’t seem to find my balance on the slackline.
Oh. And then there’s life, right?
These days, life looks a lot like walking in the tension between where I am and where I want to be.
Five years ago if you asked me how my life would’ve shaken out by now, my answer probably would’ve involved something along the lines of a marriage, a baby or two and a whitewash brick house within walking distance from my favorite part of town (with two Adridondack style rocking chairs on the front porch). I’d have my Masters Degree, a job in communications, a finisher’s medal from the Boston Marathon and a $0.00 next to the “Remaining Balance” field on the monthly invoice I get from whoever it is I owe all that money that I used to fund my education. I would’ve told you about the book I published, the speaking tour I went on and the women whose lives were moved by the words I scribbled onto the pages they held in their hands. (In case you’re keeping score, not one part of that answer has come to fruition!)
And at times, it’s really tempting to look at where I am and where I thought I would be and to let myself sink into disappointment of unrealized dreams.
It’s pretty easy to stare at the distance between the two points and think, “There’s no way. I’ll never make it,” before I hang my head, jump off the line and let the gravity of reality win.
But real talk? That’s also kind of a cop-out. Throwing my hands up in defeat, letting myself wallow in the not-evers or the not-yets minimizes the beauty and the grandeur of the here and now.
The here and now is worth it.
The here and now deserves my full attention and my full appreciation.
And the then and there? It will be worth the wait.
I don’t want to wallow or pout. It’s unattractive and really just a giant buzzkill. I want to my life to be filled with joy. I want my life to resemble Taylor on the slackline. Because the truth is this friends:
Life is a balancing act. You will wobble and sway side to side. You will fall and you will fail and you will come both miles and inches short of the grand expectations you had for yourself. Life will surprise you, knock you down, uproot you and shake you. But when you find joy, when you embrace the imperfections, it’s brilliantly exhillirating.
Let’s cut ourselves some slack. Let’s give ourselves enough grace to bob up and down and find our balance in the in-between.
I want to hear from you! I couldn’t possibly cram all my thoughts on walking in the wake of unmet expections and living life in the tension between where we are and where we want to be into one tiny blog post. So, let’s chat!
Send me an e-mail by clicking right HERE and tell me all about where you are and where you want to be. How do you live life in the in-between? What are you doing to give yourself grace and to embrace the here and now?
Image: Creative Commons via Jakub Michankow