Start where you are

One thing the pandemic has taught us is that teens sure know how to complain. Or is that just mine? But one of the complaints that has struck me is this feeling that oh, if X or Y had happened, I’d be fine now, but because it didn’t, I’m not and how can I ever do (fill in the blank)? Such as, if I had gone to school in-person last year, I’d be fine this year in school, but I didn’t, so how can I possibly do well? Or if I had reviewed more for that standardized test that no one but admissions teams and college publicists care about, I wouldn’t be nervous about taking it next year? Or, if I had joined that sports team at age 4, I would be a professional now at age 16 (note: I am pretty sure I’ve read a study that says the opposite is true, but I try not to mention this because facts should not interfere with one’s need to complain). Some of these complaints include the subtext, or sometimes the direct statement, that if I the parent had forced my child to do something my child didn’t want to do (or, as in the case of in-person schooling before vaccines were available, something that seemed super risky for our family), my child would be on easy street right now. But that didn’t happen and, thus, there’s no hope. It will never happen, whatever “it” is.

To which I say, maybe so, but start where you are. No matter what you want to do, you can never control what happened before, whatever opportunities did or did not flow your way, whether you or your parents made wise choices or not, all of that is in the past, and none of it has to be an obstacle, or at least, it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle if you choose not to treat it as such. Just start. So everyone around you seems to be perfect or already crossing the finish line? It doesn’t matter. Let them run their own races. You run yours. Start where you are. So you have no idea when you will get where you mean to go (wherever that is)? Okay, but you won’t get anywhere unless you start. Why do you have to know exactly where it is all going? Does anyone know, even the ones who act like they do? (Narrator whispers: No.) Just start. Nothing happens until you start. Nothing gets better until you start. You can’t even make choices — maybe there are some goals you don’t need to pursue, some actions that should not continue, but you can’t make any meaningful decision —until you start.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for goal-setting, for figuring out what you care about and why. But a lot of that doesn’t mean much if you never start. If I am going for a swim, I may have to decide where and how far to swim, but I won’t get anywhere until I jump in the water.

Start where you are. Build from there. Learn from the past, sure. Dream about the future. Make the best decisions you can based on what you know in the moment. But most of all, focus on the small steps that lie before you now. Take one step. Take another. You may be surprised by what comes next.

Today in blogging…

So my morning was packed with appointments around town, which tends to undermine my ability to stick to any writing routine. I dictated some blog ideas onto my voice memos app as I drove around, which made me feel productive, even though I did not feel inspired later to transfer those ideas to a blog post later. The topic was too large for a quick blog post, so I will have to be more deliberative, perhaps, slowly teasing out what I really want to say. Or perhaps, what I should say.

The rest of the day passed in a blur, an odd mix of productivity and not-so-much, plus a few more errands for my family. So now it is the end of the day, and I am pondering my goal to write a blog post “first thing” each day with the goals to “be brief” and “be specific.” It hasn’t been happening the way I hoped, and perhaps it shouldn’t. My “first thing” writing time is pretty special to me, and I want to channel it to my top priorities, which are coming into focus. It’s time to dive fully into my SF novel. I’ve been dabbling with it, which has been good, gathering ideas and notes. There was that character chart. All good. But I want to boost it to top priority now. And second priority each day will be to work on a revision (better described as a re-vision) of my time management book.

So I will move the blog to a new location on my (mostly imaginary) daily writing schedule—end-of-the-day. I can still read/reflect on important articles and books. I can use the blog as an accountability partner and process log. I can even talk more about apps I like (way more than you want to hear, I bet!). But not first. Working on the blog will be a reward once I’ve gotten some work done on my top priorities. Okay, new day, new plan. Cross your fingers for me.