How are you feeling today? Okay? Pretty good? Fine?
Isn’t that the answer that automatically flies out of our mouths when anyone asks us that innocuous question? We may be doing really, really well, or we may have had the worst day of our lives. But, no matter, we cling to that same stock answer: fine. It’s amazing how much power one little word can hold. “Fine” has become an accurate summation of our day-to-day lives: the morning rush, the cup of coffee, the check boxes that need checking, the errands that need running, the partner who needs attention, the dinners, the laundry, the emails, the blog reading, the getting to bed just a little bit later than we had intended…again. All of it adds up to one very big fine.
I’ve noticed something lately, a shift in myself. Maybe it has to do with turning thirty last fall or getting married last summer. But the shift is causing me to behave differently. For a while, I was making decisions based on what I thought other people expected of me. I wanted life to hurry up and happen, so I followed plenty of terrible, well-intentioned advice. I tried to please others, to embody their versions of success. And whenever my gut told me I was veering off track, I did my best to shut it up and push through, to parrot that good old standby: fine.
I became a real estate agent. Turns out, that’s what shutting up and pushing through gets you: a career you never really wanted in the first place. When I gave it up two summers ago, my self-esteem took a huge hit. I had done all of this studying, preparation and hard work to become something I wasn’t. I pulled the plug before I could fall too far into a life I didn’t want. It was the right call. But from that point on, I was paralyzed by indecision. Determined not to repeat my mistake, I stood completely still. Failure can stop you in your tracks, if you let it. And I let it. I didn’t feel that I deserved more love, more adventure, more of the little things that add up to make life really good and not just fine. Because who was I to ask for those things? Who was I at all? I coasted along on fine for a long time.
And then one day, I woke up.
Instead of talking about writing, I started writing more often. At first, I kept it to myself. It wasn’t about grandstanding or false promises. I started working on a book idea. Desiring a more interactive outlet, I started this blog. And then I took a closer look at my relationships. I needed to have a say again. It wasn’t all at once. It was slow. But I felt different. Instead of forcing people and things into the places I wanted them to go, I looked at myself first to see what I could (and wanted to) bring to the table and then I asked for what I needed in exchange: clearly, directly, and with a surprising lack of drama.
I realized that what I want is this: more love, more adventure, better friendships, a career that stems from my strengths and passions instead of someone else’s version of normalcy and success. Now I direct my energy to those places. Where once I just coasted, I’m now an active participant in my own happiness. I’m awake.
How are you feeling today, in your life, in your career, in your relationships? I hope the answer is, “Good. And better every day.” But if it’s not, know this:
You won’t get what you don’t ask for. You can change your mind. And you don’t have to settle for fine.