What if I don’t…

-Visit my friends in Brazil!-I’ve been in a very introspective mood lately.

I googled introspective to make sure it meant what I thought it meant. Here’s what I got: “the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes,” which sounds accurate.

It probably has something to do with the constant countdown until graduation and all of the paperwork I’ve been doing for the Peace Corps; my focus is largely on where I will be spending the next two years of my life and what I’ll be doing afterwards.

The obvious answer is I haven’t the foggiest idea what life holds for me. I’m off to Ukraine in 5 months or 158 days, 8 hours and 13 minutes from when I started writing this post.

Not that I’m counting down or anything.

I recently got a job at a skydiving place near my hometown. During the interview, they asked me if I wanted to go skydiving…

“It’s on my bucket list!” was my enthusiastic response. Skydiving is on a lot of people’s bucket lists—the list of things they want to do before they die. It’s a bit morbid if you think about it.

Anyway, this got me thinking about my “bucket list.” I have an actual list, a book of lists actually. My friend Madison Olling gave me this book for my birthday in high school. It is exactly what it sounds like: a book of lists.

It’s called “My Future Listography: All I Hope to Do in Lists” and it’s got all kinds of categories. It’s for practical things like places to visit, habits to break and good deeds to perform all the way to more introspective things like what you hope people say at your funeral, people you want to keep in touch with and experiences you would love to have again.

Every now and then I see that book on my shelf and I flip through the pages. I usually laugh. So much has changed since high school when I first started scribbling my hopes for the future. I have different goals, dreams, friends and interests. I’m a different person than I was five years ago. Some of the things are still relevant, some not so much.

Some things I’ve accomplished (I graduated college, ran a half marathon, got a tattoo etc.), some not so much (I haven’t gotten my Pulitzer yet, haven’t ridden an elephant, haven’t been a guest on Sesame street, that kind of thing…).

I’ve had countless professors and teachers extol the virtues of taking notes, writing things down, to help remember them, but this article describes why it really is effective. There is some science there.

So, I write them down. The question I have been reflecting on, wrestling with, struggling through is this: what if I don’t?

I have all these things I want for my life, but I’ve just got this one life to live. So, what if I don’t accomplish all of them? What if I fail? What if I get to Ukraine and I’m a terrible teacher, my students hate me and I can’t speak the language? What if I get home and I can’t find a job in my field? What if I don’t get to see all of the places I want to? What if I don’t get to do all of the things I want to?

The biggest one for me, the one what that outweighs all of the others: what if my life didn’t make an impact at all?

I can hear my parents’ response to this already “we’re already proud of you!!” would come from my dad. My mom would communicate something similar, but with more sarcasm. Friends and other loved ones would tell me all of the things I have already accomplished and the impact I’ve already had.

I can receive that and I’m proud of the things I’ve had the opportunity to do, but this is an honest, real fear I have.

I’m not sure I have the right answer to my question yet. It’s the kind of the question I’m sure I’ll be asking myself all my life.

What if I don’t?

I think my answer right now comes from another place of fear, but also a place of hope. As fearful as I am of my life not being as full as I envision it to be, I have a greater fear of not giving it a shot. I’d like to try to accomplish those things, to go places, to meet people, to not waste the gifts I’ve been given.

I would be more disappointed in myself if, out of this fear of failure, I never stepped out on a limb, than if I tumbled to the ground in failure over and over again.

So, that’s where I’m at, absolutely terrified for the future, but my hope outweighs my fear and I think that’s an excellent place to be right now.

So, that’s where I’m at, absolutely terrified for the future, but my hope outweighs my fear and I think that’s an excellent place to be right now.


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