When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to grow up, do all the things, know all the answers, and finally reach a point where I had life all figured out. I believed I would be able to attain this goal by the time I was in my mid-twenties…for sure by my thirties. I assumed anyone over the age of twenty had figured it all out and was comfortably cruising on their proverbial ride into the sunset. At fifteen, twenty felt like a lifetime away. I look back at the naivete of my younger self and marvel at how the passage of time distorts expectations. As I’ve aged, I have often found that life experiences actually bring more questions and fewer answers. Although this reality has been challenging to accept at times, it has also provided an outlook that is more beautiful and grace-filled than I anticipated.
When I approached my mid-twenties with barely a hint of the whole figuring it all out, I decided maybe I was just a late bloomer; although I wasn’t quite “there” yet, I was sure I would accomplish this feat in short order (I had no idea where “there” was, but I was relatively confident I would know when I arrived). As years continued to pass and I was in the process of extending yet another grace period before I really had to buckle down and figure it all out, my kids arrived. At that point, all that I thought I had figured out about life went completely out the window and I was back at square one, having returned to the starting point of a journey where I again felt like I knew almost nothing. Except this time, the path felt different, that maybe there was no map guiding the direction to the ride into the sunset. I was completely out of my element, plagued by crushing anxiety, fighting waves of depression, dealing with constant exhaustion, and facing an overwhelmingly perpetual flood of responsibilities with little hope of finding a balance. Of course, there was also so much I was thankful for, so much joy and love; it’s just that I was caught off guard by the sheer amount of unexpecteds. It was around this time I first started to develop a suspicion that the notion of figuring it all out might be more out of reach than I anticipated. The addition of kids certainly provides a unique way of humbling a person.
As my life journey continued, I became increasingly aware that I still had so little figured out. I would daydream about a telescope I could aim into the future, wishing for just a glimpse of what it would look like to finally have it all figured out. But, no such telescope exists. And, even if it did, I imagine it’d be kind of like looking into the sun: blinding.
And so, my intention to “figure it all out” seemed to be in a bit of a holding pattern, with a mountain of questions continuing to form in my head, and answers proving ever elusive. At times, it felt as if I was at a point in the journey where I was staring into a hazy future, waiting but unsure of what, exactly, I was waiting on. Just another reminder that the journey of life is full of detours, pit stops, and unexpected routes.
As life gets more complicated, and I become increasingly aware of all of the nuance, mess, unexpecteds, and unknowns, I’m realizing just how impossible “figuring it all out” really is. Instead, I’m learning to incorporate a change in my outlook. I’m recognizing that I can be okay with where I’m at in my life journey, despite not having it all figured out, that I can accept grace on a daily basis; grace over what I’ve learned, unlearned, and relearned, and what I hope to someday understand in the future, acknowledging the reality that I might never have it all figured out. This perspective shift has given me a renewed opportunity to embrace the journey.
So, I’m back to reflecting on life, sometimes feeling like I’m still hovering around the starting line that, as a teenager, I was certain by this age in my life journey would be a distant memory. At times I miss the confident perspective in the simplicity of knowing for certain that I would have life all figured out by the ripe old age of an adult. Now that I’m firmly established in adulthood, I’m beginning to appreciate more deeply that life is truly a complex wonder to behold and I will likely never fully figure it all out. Realizing this is oddly comforting.
Truth is, figuring it all out was never a realistic goal. And, even if it was feasible, achieving this goal might not really be the point. Because my experience with this plan is that when I think I’m on the verge of figuring it all out, life throws me a curveball and I’m back at the start, relearning, changing, growing, and accepting a hearty helping of grace to get me through all that I haven’t yet figured out.
Wendi is co-author of The Unexpected Ever Afters blog and enjoys sipping extra hot coffee, sharing a love of reading with her kids, and exploring bike trails.
photo credit: personal photos