I don’t have it all figured it out. Which is quite funny because people, even friends, very often come to me saying: “but you, Mel, you’ve got it all figured it out.” No, I don’t. Although I am lucky to know myself and to know what I love and where I want to go with all that, there are many things that I ignore, many things that I have no clue of and blank spaces in the path that I’ve built for myself. Sometimes things are thrown at you and you have to figure it out on the moment. Relationships, meetings, love, rejection, grief. Career opportunities. Especially in your twenties, when everything is moving and changing so fast and you’re discovering yourself.
In this era of social media, empowerment and career-driven talks, we’ve been seeing it everywhere, hearing it everywhere “get your shit together”, “figure it out”. Many quotes, slogans and ted talks about how to be the boss of bosses and change every aspect of your life to a 10/10. We see people we admire, faces behind screens, people as real as us but yet that we absolutely don’t know, and we compare ourselves to them. We think they got it all figured it out.
Oh, no! I’m late, I feel so behind.
Now that I reflected on all this, here’s what I think: none of us have got it all figured it out, and we probably never, ever will. Not even when we reach the age of 30, or 40, or 70, or any age for that matter. Not even when we eventually get the job we worked so hard for, or engage in a romantic relationship with the person we love, or move to the town of our dreams. When I was 15, my history teacher, a brilliant man with some of the highest teaching diplomas, told us something that kept us all quiet for the first time. ‘There’s a ridiculous pressure thrown at you, kids. We expect from you to know already what you want to do and all the shapes and directions your life will take. This is bullshit. You know, here I am, 47 years old, a history teacher for almost twenty years now and I love my job. I love my wife, she’s wonderful. I love my kids. But yet I’ve got nothing figured out and sometimes I have no idea what I truly want to do with this existence of mine.’
This was the most soothing thought ever.
It meant many things. First, that not having it all figured out was fine and that you shouldn’t kill yourself trying to make every aspect of your life a 10/10 and forget to truly live and wander in the process. It meant that there were many things to stop taking too seriously, starting with ourselves. And thirdly, that even at the dawn of your fifties, you could have kept that youthful, wispy energy of not knowing anything about anything and still live a successful, happy life.
The concept of having it all figured out is one of the many pressuring aspects of our modern society where we’ve been asked to be everything at once and on top of that, perfectly at peace and in alignment from the inside. I don’t know about you but I’m never against some chaotic good and surprises, and I hope it also gets slightly chaotic for you sometimes. We’re not alive to get the picture-perfect life because it is not about the destination, but the journey. The journey is the story the writer tells, not what actually happens when you reach the top of the ladder – if such a thing exists as many people who live on top of it are miserable. To be honest, I think the journey never ends until your existence does. This life is not a race with a finishing line that we have to cross as quickly as possible.
Enjoy where you are now because tomorrow you’ll be at a different place.
Having it all figured out finds its roots in the concept of time itself. Also, time is a thing that only us human beings feel and suffer of. Although I don’t like to share writing that refers to the whole of humanity as “Man”, here’s what Mitch Albom says in The Time Keeper: “Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.”
So if all of the above speaks to you, maybe stop aiming for this 10/10 life with everything figured it out. Instead, cultivate your work ethic. Make plans and transform them into actions. Make your own choices. Maybe it’s about trying to get some things figured it out, and then letting yourself getting swayed by life a bit more to be open to re-discover it daily.
Also, our civilisation corresponds to half a second on the Cosmos’ calendar. Relax. Everything’s alright.
Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse