I never imagined myself at twenty-six. Twenty-five was as far as my ambitions really soared. I thought I would be married, have a thriving career, be finished with school. I never took time to imagine the next year, even in my fantasies. I thought the most important things would happen, and then the rest of life would drift as happily as floating in a pool.
At twenty-six my mother was married. Not to my father and not at all happily. At twenty-six my Mum was thriving in her career, but not the career she had imagined for herself. At twenty-six my Mum was working and going to school and minding her six-year-old-daughter who idolised her and mistook her beautiful smile as attainable perfection. It would be many years before I understood that that smile was only for me, a smile she had to put on to cover her tears.
Recently I spoke to her about my turning twenty-seven in just a few short months. I was worrying, as I do, about the relationships I want to have and the career opportunities I have little control over and the directionless path my life seems to be careening down. I spiralled further and further down this specific rabbit hole that I visit too often alone. I wasn’t looking for her advice, but as she is a mother, she gave it anyway.
She simply said, “Whatever you do, don’t force it”.
She began to tell me little cautionary tales from periods in her life where she had tried to control something to the point of forcing an outcome. Each little tale ended with her miserable. Her plan of attack had been flawless. She got exactly what she had wanted every time. Every time she was unhappy.
Her stories started to make me think of other stories. Those ones where someone is granted wishes and each wish leaves them unhappier than the last. I never could help but think that I would be clever enough to outsmart the genie or jinn or trickster spirit. I could figure out how to have everything I ever wanted without any fear of deceptive fine print. Perhaps that’s the arrogance of youth.
Now I’m starting to think all true happiness comes from contentment. The rest will find it’s way to you.
In three short months I’ll be twenty-seven. Another year I never imagined for myself. Nothing good in my life right now was planned even a year ago. I’m not advocating a lifestyle of aimlessness and I don’t think my mother is either. I’m only saying, as she did, to not force it. Enjoy the now. Be content. Joy will find you.
And I will try my best to take that advice, too.