Today’s letter comes from the balcony of my hotel room as I overlook the Atlantic. Living in the mountains, we don’t really have sunrises. By the time the sun peeks over the mountains, it already put on its horizon color display for people on flat land. We get a few pink clouds and then, BAM! Full sun. Sitting on the beach, watching the colors change and the arc of light form in anticipation of the sun, set the tone for serious contemplation.
For the past four days, I’ve been lucky enough to look out over the ocean and observe its vastness and wonder about the secrets that lie beneath the surface. I also had the opportunity to go to The Kennedy Space Center and view Hubble 3D in the IMAX theater and marvel at images of space and the universe. The irony struck me that I view both the ocean and space with the same idea of quantity. Obviously, space is billions of times bigger, but my capacity to think of things that big needs a frame of reference, and the only frame I have is the vastness of the ocean.
The thought occurred to me that I may be limiting my ideas of my future in the same way. Why does my future have to be framed by concepts I already have? If all people thought within such limiting concepts, we wouldn’t have space travel. We wouldn’t have submarines, cell phones, fax machines, or a multitude of things that require thinking beyond now. Yet, I am framing what comes next in my life by what came before. There is comfort in staying within boundaries I already know, but I’m not sure if there’s happiness and fulfillment.
This project has begun to push me outside my comfort zone. Where once I might have ignored something I didn’t want to face, writing these letters has forced me to question my beliefs, my motivation and the origin of my responses. Thinking about my life’s journey has prompted me to dismantle preconceived notions and redefine what I want. I’m well into the second half of my life and rather than cruise on automatic and accept the status quo, I want more. I just don’t know what that more looks like…yet.
I’m in a very lucky position in life. I’ve had a fulfilling 20 year career as a middle school teacher. I’ve been an active parent (meaning minor children living at home) for 26 years with another seven to go. We have a moderate, yet comfortable lifestyle, and I’ve been afforded the opportunity to ponder what I want next, as well as the means to be able to go after it. With such blessings, I want to choose wisely. I want to choose something that helps other people, enriches my life, leaves something behind for the future, and ultimately is something I take pride in doing.
I need to pull back my limitations, open my eyes, my heart and myself to possibilities, and move forward. The past may offer lessons, the present may offer challenges, but the future holds promise.
Forge on, Elaina. Take long strides. Move forward and make a difference.
The future is bigger than you can imagine.