you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable
And life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button, girl.
So cradle your head in your hands
And breathe… just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe
— the prophet nalick
The email from Jenny stopped by this week. It was titled simply, “first draft.”
It’s a paper she’s writing for grad school admission, but so much more. It’s basically a rewrite of her life. It’s been a pretty good story so far, but she’s looking for a happier ending. So rather than being content to follow the trajectory she was on, she’s jumping the track. It’s crazy and brave and wonderful and scary and perfect.
At the same time, there’s a sanding noise coming from the living room. Mo, who has just finished a painting, is scraping part of it off to start over. Because although it was great, it wasn’t right. Just a first draft.
It occurs to me: Shouldn’t life be one continuous first draft? Should we ever be content with where our story is going? We need more rewrites, more updates, more revisions. It’s easy to go along with things the way they are. It’s terrifying to change. But sometimes you have to close your eyes and leap.
It’s the start of another training plan, a new cycle of life, another chance to reinvent myself. A time to look at where I am and where I want to go. All I really need is Mo and a medium chocolate frosty. The rest is just details. Jobs, jogs, geography, jocularity, ju ju. Does it really matter? What makes you happy? What would you change in that first draft?
“A lot of people enjoy being dead,” Maude told Harold. “But they are not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can.”
I’m barreling toward my sixth decade and still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. Maybe I’ll never figure it out. The important thing is working on that first draft. Revise, tweak, paint over, but in the words of The Prophet Rundgren: Do something. Anything. Never accept things the way they are. Question authority. Be happy. Switch careers. Play as well as you can. Keep painting till it’s right. Run like you still know where you’re going. Don’t be afraid to jump the track if you’re heading the wrong direction. Just do it. Remember back when those three words meant something?
“Live your own life,” Dr. Sheehan said in Running & Being. “Success is not something that can be measured or worn on a watch or hung on the wall. It is not the esteem of colleagues, or the admiration of the community, or the appreciation of patients. Success is the certain knowledge that you have become yourself, the person you were meant to be from all time.”
Never be content with your life. Keep working on that first draft. Maybe you’ll find the answer.
And breathe. Just breathe.