You make plans. You dream. You plot out every step until you are the astronaut, actor, sports star, scientist, or homemaker you thought you would be in your mind at age ten. You enjoy moments in your life where the world is at your command. The room may be quiet but your mind is buzzing so loud, it could wake the dead. Life is good. You know when you grow up that you will conquer the world with your dreams and schemes.
Then you grow up and those moments turn on you.
The reality is that very few of us actually end up where we thought we would and that’s OK. There are things in my life I’d like to change. There are decisions that I wish I could do over, as if I hadn’t taken my thumb off the page I flipped from in that Choose Your Own Adventure book called my early 20s. But that isn’t the case. In fact, you have to be careful not to dwell on those thoughts of what you would do over if given the opportunity. Your past isn’t a do over.
When you’re a kid, no one is dependent on you in an everyday scenario. But when you’re an adult and on your own, others may be dependent on you. Your decisions can be as important as a chess move against Bobby Fisher or even Death himself.
I could be wrong, though. Your life may be a world of rainbows and unicorn fluff, but for most people, it’s as monotonous and plain as your mother’s curtains. What’s worse is when you think you’ve made all the right moves and life decides to change the game. Doesn’t seem like much, the days go by like they normally do but then you look back and a week has gone by, a month, a year, and you haven’t moved.
It may not hit you at first. But there are those moments when you’ve put your kid(s) to bed, you’re sitting alone on the couch, looking over some Facebook posts, and it hits you. There are no distractions, like broken toys or spilled milk. Panic sets in. You think about your age. You think about your life. You think about death. The quiet scares the hell out of you. What the hell have you done with your life? No one expected you to keep to a 20 year plan when you were a kid. But at almost 40, just getting through the day and accomplishing one task seems like a huge victory.
Like I said, though, you’re life could be perfect. You could have a healthy kid and a wonderful spouse. You could live in a home, safe and secure. But what happens if all that were to go away. What about some of it? What about one thing? What could turn your life upside down and force you to shelve all those hopes and dreams you had/have? Can you deal?
We live in an age where everyone is connected and yet we find ourselves more alone than ever. It’s those quiet moments that kill. I remember sitting in a hotel room in Nashville, alone. I was on a business trip and at nine in the evening, I was sitting there, no television on, just being. I had already talked to my wife and most of my online friends were somewhere else or just disconnected. I had a brief panic attack because I was just there, invisible.
The same thing happened to me in 1993. I was a freshman in college. I was at Coastal Carolina University and it was any Friday night, I don’t remember which. We didn’t have the Internet or cell phones. I didn’t have the money to call my girlfriend. One of my roommates had gone home for the weekend and the other two were volunteer firemen, hanging out at the station. I was there, alone. No cable, only a handful of computer games, and I was in the quiet. Granted I was 18 and my whole life was ahead of me, but it was like that night in 1993 and 2008 somehow connected to each other in the universe. The quiet of my room in Nashville ripped open a wormhole back to 1993 and attached itself to that 18 year old in Myrtle Beach and sucked the life right out of him, leaving him near hyperventilating from panic.
Some nights, I look for the quiet and see if it opens to another time in my life; those nights when my kid is sick and she just lies there, not wreaking havoc across the house. I wonder what childhood moment will they attempt to steal? What hope they will choose to supplant with crippling fear that I will have failed everyone around me as an adult? I feel like I’m in a horror movie and the noises and distractions are like a light shining around me to keep out the evil monsters. Then I wonder if there are others like me. Maybe the quiet comes to them and finds their childhood moments. Maybe we connect to each other’s moments and cancel it out.
Life is never what we intend it to be. It’s what we make of it. We need to make the quiet work for us. We need to master our own quiet moments. We need to reverse the flow, allowing those childhood moments to come back to us. We need that positive force pushing out the quiet. Our lives are still under our control. We can make it better but we have to try. Our intent should be to augment, not destroy, though. We still have those around us that depend on our stability. They are balanced on our shoulders and too quick of a direction change could dislodge their footing. We need them as much as they need us because they are part of that new future, a better one, one where the quiet is ours for the making.