Today is your sister’s birthday, one ending with a dreaded “0.” The day distresses her, though other birthdays passed without her concern. This one, this year, struck at her and forced introspection.
When you asked her why this one bothered her so much, she choked up. “You know, I pictured my life differently.”
Make no mistake, your sister is blessed. She is respected at work and in the field. She manages her household with grace and Godliness. She owns a beautiful home and working vehicle. Her children possess health, intelligence, and good looks. She herself is an accomplished and versatile beauty. Her competence remains unquestioned. If a task needs organization, it is to her thinking people turn. She dons leadership like a mantle in all areas of her life.
At job interviews, one of the questions asked is “Where do you picture yourself in five years? In ten? Fifteen?” My sister is finding it difficult to reconcile her image of where she and her family would be at this point in her life with the reality.
You are not certain what she fancied when she answered those questions or set personal goals. Her reaction surprised you because of your great admiration for her and her circumstances. It did give you pause, though.
Where did you imagine yourself at this point in your life? What goals remain unattained? How many items have you checked off of the old “bucket list?” You are older than this beautiful sister by
seven years. Seven years of itches left unscratched, perhaps?
Long ago when you bore children, you pushed personal goals aside. Yet the desire for personal self-actualization does not find fulfillment in the achievements of others, even those of your bloodline. You applaud their every accomplishment, yet inside remains a desire for personal achievement. Thus, you tenaciously chip bits of time from the monolith of daily tasks for your own, selfish satisfaction. You write.
If you look at your life from the perspective of a fresh-faced twenty year old, you are not where you imagined. You have not achieved what you set out to do. You expected more from yourself.
There was a year ending with a “5” that resonated. You had determined by that age, you would achieve certain great things. You did not. You felt deflated, depressed, and disillusioned. You rallied and reexamined the goals. You appreciated they needed more time. You redefined the arrangement, but instead of setting a “by this date you will do this and such,” you relaxed the reins. Life and circumstances infiltrate and influence. You incorporate your experiences, branch out to include the world at large in your consideration.
You married and gave birth.
If you met your twenty-something, idealistic self – the one who imagined meeting people on every continent and writing about those experiences – she might shake her head and mutter, “What a shame.” Her reaction arises from her perspective. She could not know the beauty of sacrifice for her young. She could not appreciate the determination to continue toward not only your goals, but also your loved ones’ goals. She could not know that within you is the resolve to raise your voice, to be heard above the clamor of daily responsibilities. To your twenty-something self, all that mattered was the
I wonder what my sister imagined. If she met her fresh-faced self, would she realize the difference lay not in abandoning goals but instead in redefining them? I love the person she was, and I love the person she grew into. I am awed by her strength and her capability. She is grace and dignity and fun bound into beautiful blue-eyed flesh. I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes without limitations or deadlines.
Of course, you think everyone experiences birthdays that send us into this kind of retrospection. We look at our lives and think, “Gosh, it’s half over. What have I done?” Your job today is to help your sister enjoy herself and know she is loved. You had your tough year some time ago, but that does not mean there won’t be others. Doubt sneaks up and throws rocks in our way, tripping us on our journey.
Ours is not necessarily to see where our life’s path will end, but instead to tread each day with determination and good intention. It is best to set goals, knowing them to be castles in the sky. Make them lofty and grand, then set your path. If you don’t reach them by a certain age, continue on. Great goals take time to realize. Just don’t ever give up. Age is a number, a self-imposed deadline, a marker of time past and yet to come. Age does not need to define us. If we haven’t set up residence in our dreams by a certain date, we’ve not failed. We’ve progressed and must press on.
You will celebrate with your sister, celebrate the many accomplishments of her life and the impeccability of her beloved character. She shall have an indulgent dinner and extravagant cake, because the age ending in “0” brings her another step closer to her dreams.
To view more of Kerry’s letters, click on Kerry!