Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Long Time/Not Long Enough
I'm doing some data entry for my dad's company in the mornings this week, and today I remembered to bring my headphones so I could listen to music. Interestingly, data entry (with music) serves much the same purpose as cross-stitching and solitaire, in that it occupies my body in a mostly mindless way, and frees up my brain for thinking without wanting to kill itself from boredom. And so, when my brain was set free this morning to wander, it latched onto a song lyric.* Specifically, this bit here:
You've got your whole life to do something
And that's not very long
-Ani DiFranco, "Willing to Fight"
It reminded me of my "What I've done since college" entry, when I said that I couldn't tell if it seemed like I had done a lot, or not enough.

When I was little, one of my big fears about dying was that I would die in the middle of a really good book, and I'd never get to know how it ended. It is perhaps for this reason that I learned to read so voraciously and quickly. Now, though, it occurs to me that my fear is not so much that I'll never know how the book ends, but that I'll have missed out on an opportunity I should have taken. I'm starting to worry more about how my own story goes than someone else's.

Until sometime when I was nearing the end of high school, I think my parents used to worry they'd ever get me out of their house. I didn't have any desire to go out of the state to live on my own, or for college, or anything. Of course, at one point in my life, I wanted to be a professional cheerleader. People change. (Thank goodness.) I'm not really sure what prompted me to change, but all of a sudden, I was ready to go away to college. And then I was ready to go study abroad. And then I was ready to move to Japan. And all these things have shaped me now to the point of no longer fearing new, different situations, but fearing that I'll miss something that would have been amazing and fascinating.

I certainly wouldn't say that all my experiences getting me to this point have been always bright and shiny and good. When I was actually in Chile, I spent a lot of time watching the airport bus with envy, not to mention throwing up a lot for 3 months from stress. But it has been an experience I appreciated having and never regretted ever since I got back, and, at times, even while I was there. It taught me a lot about myself, gave me a huge amount of confidence in my ability to be independent, allowed me to go live in Japan, etc, etc.

I've been trying for a while to figure out what my time at MSU and in Taiwan taught me. I think it might be the flip side of college and Japan. Those things taught me that there's a lot out there that I very much want to see. The later years are perhaps to tell me that I should still be discerning about which experiences are worth having. College, Chile, Japan, those were all things I considered and really knew why I wanted or needed to do them. But I got too used to making decisions that turned out well for me, so the poor fit at MSU was a shock I didn't know how to deal with, and Taiwan was, well, just running away in the hopes that doing something new and different would be the exciting answer again, without really considering it.

I've got my whole life to do something, yes. And while I should make sure not to overlook opportunities that would be valuable to me, I don't need to waste my life on things that I know aren't right for me. It's not long enough for that.

So once again, the same lesson I've learned over and over: there has to be a balance.

*Yes, I know it is a blogging cliché to quote meaningful song lyrics and then have "deep thoughts", but you can all deal.

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