Last week a friend and I spent an evening philosophizing about life over a sangria special at one of my favorite places in Lincoln Park. The conversation started because the friend is unsure about a significant life decision. Though there were lots of particulars in the conversation that are unique to her life circumstances, the theme and arc of the conversation could apply to all of us in our major life choices as well.
As we spoke, it occurred to us that as people, we so often want to go out and “seek an end-all-be-all answer” to our life-altering choices. We wonder, deep down, if there is an secret text or sage that might provide us with the keys we need to a successful life, a fulfilling marriage or relationship, and a satisfying purpose-driven career. I can attest to this myself, it seems so comforting to think that there may be some ultimate answer to all my uneasiness that I can discover if I look hard enough. But what we realized in last week’s conversation, is that the reality might actually be that we are seeking answers from some third-party source when really, the answers we are looking for need to be self-authored.
Perhaps we need to write our own answers for a successful life, a fulfilling marriage or relationship, and a satisfying purpose-driven career. And perhaps we should be writing these answers in our life books in pencil, making room for editions and changes. Though it seems easier to assume that there is just One Right Answer to these questions, maybe the answers (and the questions) change as we evolve. And maybe we could get more comfort from knowing that these phases will pass like the seasons, rather than seeking a decree etched in stone.
But if we write the answers to these questions ourselves, we also have to account for the fact that as authors, we may not be ready to right the book just yet. That we may leave a few pages blank for weeks or months, gathering information and allowing ourselves to later write the answers. And then, once we’ve filled the volume, we have to allow for second, third, and fourth editions.
Though it is tempting to think there may be a Cliffs Notes summary of our lives just waiting to be discovered, our answers might best be lived through a series of books which reflect our growing understanding of ourselves.