The majority of young adulthood has been spent checking the necessary boxes. Completing education and then doing some more education, taking on professional experiences to build a career path, establishing financial independence, meeting the guy (and then moving hundreds of miles away from the guy, finally finding our way to the same place again) building community, developing interests and passions that fuel my soul and contribute pieces of Amy.
I’ve done the “need-tos.” I’ve checked all my boxes. I’ve got it good (really, really good).
Now, the question that keeps cropping up – what do I want?
Wait a minute-I get to have wants? I have my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed, so now you’re saying I can do and be whatever I want? (ok, not exclusively WHATEVER I want, because then I would eat peanut butter all day and watch my shows, and we need to have some limits here) First thought: “This is awesome” quickly followed by “This is terrifying”
When you’re living life moving through the procedural boxes, thinking about wants is like stepping off the side of the world. Where is my map? Is there a plan for wants? Could I take my wants and make them check boxes? The security blanket of a Plan with a capital P is missing, leaving the Planner feeling aimless (and alive and free).
In thinking about what I want, I have found a few things to be true
Your wants are truly yours. You’re not going to find them in someone else’s blog post or Instagram feed of a filter-worthy life. They aren’t coulds or should or woulds from the outside world. They come from the low rumble in your tummy (the one you have been ignoring as you jump from box to box) that reaches into your heart and center and points you in the direction of “Yeah, that is me.” They come out of the doodles on the meeting agenda, the day dreams prompted by “if I could do anything,” the way you choose to spend time on completely free afternoons. Listen to that internal rumble and collect your day dreams to piece together what you truly want.
They aren’t always about achievement. Wants aren’t about looking good, they are about feeling good. Less flashy, more fulfilling. Last spring, doors simultaneously opened on two different volunteer opportunities; one with the my sorority and another with a small start-up I had been engaged with. The go-getter, yes-lady in me wanted to do both, and yet I knew I needed to choose one to have enough time and capacity to dedicate to the role. While the sorority role provided organizational name recognition and an opportunity to regionally and nationally grow my network, I found myself much more motivated by the start-up’s mission and the opportunity to be a part of a new venture with their team. I said yes to being a part of their conference planning group and have found a great match.
In a backwards way, choosing the initially less flashy option has actually led me to personally achieve more. More skills, more connections, more confidence. I am extending my comfort zone by working in new areas, and I am excited everyday by our team’s shared accomplishments and hustle.
They can be selfish. The wants can truly just be for you and your benefit, and that’s ok. As a giver and a people pleaser in a helping profession, this has been a bit slow to come around to. Many a guilt party of one when not putting others before myself. I have acknowledged, however, that I am in a time of life where I only need to worry about me, and thanks to checking some of those boxes, I have the freedom and security to do so. It’s ok to take advantage of these circumstances to explore new layers of myself and give myself rest. Many of my wants have revolved around having more time for me to be still, and I have given myself permission to make more time to just be.
They might scare you. If you thought straying away from The Plan was terrifying, wait until you start to listen to that low rumble and see where it points you. Uf, it can knock you off your socks. But could I really do that? Can I actually go there? How the hell am I going to make that happen?
Take a beat to calm the shame & guilt monsters, the coulda/woulda/shouldas, and consider some small tangible steps. Small pieces with patience and persistence can add up to big things! Aaron and I wanted to travel together this year, and our big goal was to do an international trip. After having a lot of ugly love towards other jet-setting twenty somethings, I took the time to crunch budget numbers and we both set up a savings app (Qapital check it out!) to slowly build up a trip fund over six months. I write this a handful of days after our return from a week in the UK! We are continuing to make those small steps so we can travel at least once a year.
There will still always be things I need to do – go to work, do the laundry, make a Target run (though, some days that is more of a want than a need…). The time and space that has been opening up to explore wants has turned from a scary blank slate to a rich addition to this season of life. I am aware it is a privilege and it is temporary, so I am excited to see how the small pieces lead to big things in 2017.