In my twenties, I was fond of saying things like, I just need to get my shit together and listing off things like more exercise, changes in my career—finally embracing yoga!—or learning the fundamentals of how to be in a relationship before I would be there.
There looked like the fixtures of a fully realized life. It was characterized by a certain income, a certain relationship status, amenities of convenience and luxury in my home, a body type I determined as my ideal—this dream life where all of my needs were met.
Or so I thought.
The reality is that I actually ended up getting most of those things. It would be a lie to say they didn’t make me happy—of course they did!
By 29 I finally started making the money I aspired to, and I had a great boyfriend and we lived in a nice apartment with a huge kitchen (by New York standards) and I was definitely in better shape at 29 than I was in my early twenties when I used to drink like someone was going to take the vodka away from me.
There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, with setting goals and then working towards them. If I wasn’t ambitious about making more money or being in a healthy relationship, I wouldn’t have started doing things in my career and my personal life that supported those goals. If I didn’t want to be healthier, maybe I would have ignored how punishing the hangovers got around 27 and just accepted them as part of my social life.
But of course now I have new goals and ambitions that have developed over time. I’m not done just because I finally have a stainless steel refrigerator in my kitchen. In fact, now I could care less what my refrigerator looks like!
New goals and ambitions are what drive us to strive and grow—they’re so important—but that intense focus can often come at the cost of one very important detail:
Where you are today is exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Which goes back to my old mantra: I just gotta get my shit together.
Implying that wherever I was at that time was incomplete, disorganized or just not good enough. There’s a host of reasons why that mindset doesn’t do anyone any good. But what I find most troubling about it is that it sets you up as ill-equipped to reach your goals. It invalidates where you are right now.
And you miss out entirely on celebrating what you do have. When I moved to New York, I was making very little money (again, by New York standards), my apartment was nothing like the one I dreamt of, and I was not only single, but spending far too much time and energy on guys who were simply not good for me.
But I had moved to New York! I was finally an independent adult supporting myself! I was 22 and had no idea the world of possibilities at my fingertips! This was an amazing opportunity to start a fresh chapter of my life and explore it, page by page, day by day.
But the more I focused on getting to Chapter 10, the more I tried to figure out what was going to happen 100 pages from now, the less engaged I was with the story as it unfolded. So I didn’t enjoy being 22; I fought against it tooth and nail. As a result, I was incredibly anxious and depressed about what I did have.
I can’t go back and change any of that. How maddening to say, “I wish I could go back in time and appreciate the present more!” But I can learn from it.
There are things in my life right now (even this website) that I want to be more than what they are right now. I still have that feeling of wanting to get there, and this notion of what that future looks like. I can feel the bubbling of anxiety in my gut and I can hear the voices in my head saying, This is not enough, look at all you need to do! You’ll never get there if you don’t get your shit together!
And the thing is, those voices are partially right. I will never get there.
Because there is no there.
There is only here.