I’m now happily embarked on my second quarter of a century; this was written in the pensive moments before my first drew to a close.
When I turned 18, I panicked because I hadn’t yet accomplished anything worthy of being reported in the New York Times. I thought I was set: I’d squeezed two years of primary schooling into one, I’d taken extension university courses during high school, and I was overloading on units for my bachelor’s degree. My CV was brimming with extra-curriculars. I’d been told by professors that my projects were of a publishable standard. I was well on my way, or so I thought, to a quick shoot straight to the top. With brilliantly awful teenage gusto, I determined that it was either conquer the world, or die trying.
Well here I am today, almost 26, neither a conqueror nor dead. In just over a month’s time, I’ll bid my first quarter century sweet au revoir, still not having attained most of the things I thought I would have by now – no high-flying career, no house deposit saved, no blazing stars orbiting a deservedly inflated cerebrum. In fact, by most accounts, I remain a renegade pilot flying by the seat of my pants, breathlessly awaiting the next new world to blip across my radar.
Bizarrely, I find an unshakeable peace in that.
It was the accumulation of a long series of decisions I made, each of which lead me further and further away from my earlier, idealised vision of success. Step by step, it was re-made into something completely different. Actually, something rather more fantastic.
The truth is, conquering the world is far less satisfying than getting out and experiencing it in all it’s richness and imperfections. My former earthly ambitions were dictated by nothing more than a purist desire for comfort and certainty – things I wasn’t even sure I wanted. I began to cultivate a deep-seated reverence for the unknown; tasting, over and over again, the exhilarating fear of arriving alone, luggage in hand, to new worlds swirling with unfamiliar languages, faces, sights and sounds. Transformative conversations with people from all walks of life irreversibly moulded me – in particular, conversation with those who, unlike me, couldn’t afford to aspire to anything beyond literally surviving the day.
In short, I learnt not to be so impatient and hung up on the world’s ideas of success. There are things of far greater eternal value than meets the eye.
Don’t get me wrong. You don’t get anywhere by being irresponsible with what you have – be that time, money, education or any other gift entrusted to us by God. I’ve made mistakes and wasted my fair share of time. By His grace, I remain committed to learning from the past, working hard and achieving great things.
But what counts as ‘great’ is now decidedly more dependent on my Creator than ever before. On exiting my first quarter century, my vision is anchored in the hope that no future decision of mine will ever fail to bring me closer to what truly matters: to live with my eyes only on God, to keep my heart close to His, and to pour myself out to the people He would have me love. Even if it means pursuing a life that struggles to be validated by ordinary parameters of the healthy, wealthy and wise, I pray my passion for such a pursuit would only grow into the next quarter century.
Cover photo: Leland Francisco, Flickr