Most people overestimate what they can do in a year, but underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.
– Tony Robbins (or Bill Gates, depending on who you read)
When I look 10 years in the rear view; wowza, what a ride. From 28 to 38, I emerged a woman who has survived divorce shame, finished 100m races and international solo adventures, continues to raise an incredible young man, wrote for national magazines, dreamt up and built a small business, then left it to run global social media for one of the world’s largest tech firms.
I wish I could say I architected this fortune, but much of it was as random as the message in your cookie after Chinese take-out. Delightful, but not precise.
However, over these last 10 years, I have been conscious of tracking, researching, and cataloging the lives of off-the-beaten-path, make your own rules, challenge the normal type folks. After spending my 20s pretending the Pottery Barn catalog counted as reading material, I’ve found myself utterly fascinated with those who picked a worn copy of Dharma Bums instead. What did she know that I didn’t? And how can I catch up? Still somewhat cuffed to my upper-middle class, suburban upbringing; I keep inching closer and closer to these subjects I have longingly studied.
For New Year’s 2017, I wrote out my 1, 5, & 10 year vision; a lengthy, wide ranging to-do that including blooming into my most wildflower self with hair down, less stress, and deep, wrinkled authenticity.
Then, on Jan 3, I read this:
Each person is born with an unencumbered spot – free of expectation and regret, free of ambition and embarrassment, free of fear and worry – an umbilical spot of grace where we were first touched by God….This is the only thing worth teaching: how to uncover that original center and how to live there once restored.
Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
So, I crossed out my long list and with a proud flourish, re-wrote simply:
Become a child again.
My idea of becoming a child is inspired by my 9 year old son: silly, joyful, loving, forgiving, kind and curious, emotional and creative. I am a few of those things, only some of the time. Re-learning silly and accessing pure joy are high on my grown-up to-do list.
So, to continue chasing my kid + Kerouac fantasies, I promptly kicked off 2017 by buying a bus – a 1997 Blue Bird school bus, fully converted into a functional home. In a few weeks, Colin and I will move into it, splitting our time between a farm in Carnation, where the bus will be parked, and our house in Roslyn. In my daydream, this bus is the Nirvana; the field past right and wrong where we run free in the tall grasses and lick honey off our chubby fingers.
But the reality is while planning our carefree, minimalist life, I’ve been trampled by super-Adult-sized Fear. A ground swelling, cataclysmic sink hole of Fear.
At first, my Fear pretended to be practical:
I don’t know how to drive it! It’s tiny, where do Colin’s Legos go? Where do I practice handstands or meditate? How many glue sticks should I keep? The farm is 30 minutes from our daily life, will we feel isolated?
I mentioned the last one to Colin, “What if I made a big mistake?” and he, in sweet purity said, “We can’t know if it’s a mistake until we make it… and if we decide it is, we’ll unmake it.”
Right, become a child again. I thanked him for his wisdom.
But the Fear keeps creeping. When people ask me questions, I hear myself massaging the message depending on the audience, trying to win their buy-in. I stumble when my ex-father-in-law suggests that if I regret my choice, my apartment will be out of my price range. I snap at my neighbor when he asks me about the transmission, embarrassed I don’t know the answer. I pull up Pinterest examples for co-workers, trying to convince them busses are ‘cute’ and I’m not a complete freak.
Then finally, I start bawling in Yoga when I can’t hold my balance on an ‘easy’ pose. I give in, sinking to the mat in child’s pose, surrendering and letting my hands grasp forward to that umbilical cord of grace.
The most revolutionary thing a woman can do is not explain herself.
Glennon Doyle Melton
Colin is in 4th grade. That’s about the year I remember starting to care what others thought. The name brand on my bag (Esprit), the size of my butt (bubbly) – these became real concerns which intensified each day and decade from there. Colin at 9 is happy to let his freak flag fly, but I, at 38, am still stuck cultivating external validation. I am swimming against stream, while also trying to convince the other salmon to approve of my insolence. And in the process, I’ve completely exhausted myself. As my sister reminded me, “It takes a lot of energy to be independent and brave.” Even more, to carry the world along with you.
My goal for the next 10 years is to become a child again. To that unencumbered place, free of expectation, embarrassment, and fear. To start, I’m getting on the bus and sitting next to the silliest 9 year old I know; we’ll be the ones making funny noises and laughing all the way home.