“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~ E.E. Cummings
Ten years ago, the things I thought I wanted were vastly different from the things I know today that I desire.
In June 2004, I had just received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, with dreams of pursuing a master’s degree in creative writing, living the romantic life of a struggling full-time writer (oh, youthful naivete), having exciting love affairs with all the wrong (but devastatingly handsome) men, and remaining childless and single until age 40, at which point I would die during some sort of dangerous outdoor adventure and be celebrated and praised posthumously for my immense literary talents.
Seriously, you guys. This was pretty much how I envisioned my future.
Let’s just say that my dreams have shifted a little a bit over the past decade, taking several sharp turns and changing lanes quite a few times along the way.
Some of this is the result of things I’ve learned about the world, but much of this is the inevitable outcome of learning about a million big and tiny things about myself. Many of which have completely surprised me to discover.
If you had told me at age 21 that a few years later I’d start a graduate program in Chinese medicine and find myself self-employed as an acupuncturist at age 31, I would have said you were crazy.
And if you ever suggested I might eventually adopt and fall madly in love with a cat, I would have immediately dismissed anything else you might ever tell me as absolute bullshit.
Acupuncture? Self-employment? Cat-ownership?
Ridiculous. I mean, I hate cats.
Except that all of these things have actually occurred. Because the purpose of life is to grow and learn and change and become who you are. And sometimes, discovering yourself will shock the pants right off of you.
Like that time I ate a tomato after believing for fifteen years that I hated tomatoes, only to find out that I did, indeed, like them.
Or that time I became an acupuncturist in Portland, Oregon, instead of a starving writer in New York City.
Life is full of expected turns and dead-ends and dirt roads and five-lane highways and roundabouts and opportunities to ditch your car for a bicycle. And every path you choose teaches you a little bit more about yourself and your desires and what makes you happy – if you’re paying attention, that is.
Because it’s often easier to ignore or pretend away some of the lessons you’re being asked to learn – especially if they challenge your status quo or make you question the things you thought you knew about yourself or contradict your deeply-held beliefs about who you are and what you want.
Life asks you to listen to your intuition and trust your gut and make some weird choices sometimes – choices that often seem completely out of character for you and yet feel absolutely necessary and right once you start moving in their direction.
And sometimes, you’ll realize you want things that maybe you feel like you shouldn’t want, or that you don’t want things you think perhaps you should.
Or that yesterday’s desires don’t seem so desirable today. Or that last year’s vision for your future no longer resonates with what your soul is calling out for right now.
When I started my business, for example, I created a certain vision of the kind of acupuncture practice I wanted to build. And then I headed out in that direction, certain the future I imagined was the one I truly desired.
But then I found out it wasn’t. So I course-corrected and re-envisioned my dream, realizing that the kind of practice I desire is different from what I thought I wanted. And that what I thought I wanted was largely based on what I thought I should want. Which, in all honesty, was largely based on what other practitioners were doing.
Once I stepped back and reevaluated and took into account everything I know to be true about myself at this point, I was able to clearly visualize the kind of business – and healing environment – I am really seeking to create.
Which, again, kind of took me by surprise.
As did the recent realization that a serious, committed relationship is not really a priority for me at the moment, nor is it something I necessarily desire for myself anytime in the near future.
Another shocking self-discovery.
Because shouldn’t I, as a thirty-something single woman, be actively seeking partnership and marriage at this point in my life?
Maybe. Except, no. Because that’s not what I want right now.
Although, I will admit that two years ago, that’s exactly what I thought I wanted. And even a few short months ago, I was still convinced that partnership was a top priority for me.
And, you know, maybe it was. But now it’s not. Just like my desire to pursue writing as a standalone career became something else entirely. And then the acupuncture clinic I designed in my mind evolved into something different and unexpected.
Because the universe is like that, and learning things about yourself changes the landscape of your life on an ongoing, daily basis.
Which is why I reserve the right to decide differently tomorrow. And to re-imagine my professional future again at some point . And to someday – maybe even tomorrow –desire commitment and partnership for myself once again.
Because I know that I ultimately do want those things. Absolutely. Just not today.
I’m here to tell you: It’s okay to change your mind.
And then change it again. Because human beings are dynamic creatures. You are a dynamic creature.
Because you will be irreversibly altered by your journey towards your deepest desires. Hopefully, anyway. And this will inevitably reshape and redefine your dreams to more accurately reflect the evolution of your soul each step of the way.
Which is a pretty amazing thing, if you think about it.
So, yes, dream big. But make space for growth and transformation. And for wanting something different tomorrow than you do today.
And for surprising yourself often. In pleasant and maddening and humorous ways.
Because, hey, being human is tricky. And desire is a slippery, elusive thing to pin down sometimes. Which can be frustrating, but also keeps things pretty interesting most of the time.
And that’s a hell of a lot better than being bored, if you ask me.