When I was growing up, young people were told to go to college, start a career, get married, have kids, work hard all your life to make money, retire around 60, and then, with whatever time and money you have left, you’re free to create and pursue a bucket list. While this seems like solid advice, I firmly believe that there doesn’t have to be a timeline in which life is lived in a step-by-step, chronological order. Yes, go to college before getting married, and get married before having kids, but after that? Why not try something different, something life-changing, something that will make your world become limitless, your family become richer in the ways that count, and your heart soar to unimaginable heights of happiness?
Enjoy life while you’re young enough to enjoy it. Live your life like it’s part of the journey rather than the preparation for the final leg.
Why not start aiming for your goals right now…I can name five people right off the top of my head who followed the advice given above. Now in their 40s and 50s, they are miserable. They hate their jobs but see no way out. They trod through each day, longing for a respite, praying to be rescued from their chosen plight. How many of your parents lived that same life? How many of you are living it now?
I’d like to offer some different advice. It may not be right for everyone; nothing ever is. It may take time and effort to achieve. It might not always be easy, but I believe you will be happier in the long run.
Let’s suppose that, at the age of 22, you decide to throw caution to the wind and become a cartoon artist, opening your own studio to the dismay of your parents. You marry at 24 after a short courtship. You have your first commercial success at the age of 27 and at 36, you stun the world with the creativity of your first animated feature film. Within that time, you have children, endure bankruptcy, face many failures, and are told countless times that you are wasting your time. You paddle on, riding out the storms, cresting the waves, and plunging into the depths, but you hold onto your dreams. At the age of 54, you’re opening your own theme park, and after you’re gone, people around the world study your creative genius and how you brought happiness to the lives of millions of families. Yes, Walt would tell you, dreams can come true. But only if you pursue them.
Is your dream big or small? Is it to start your own business, travel to a place you’ve never been, write your first novel, or simply to enjoy family life as much as possible?
Instead of waiting for retirement to start on your bucket list, why not start now? Yes, now–while you’re in college or when you’re newly married or after the kids are born or even while you’re working hard to provide for your family. I’m not advising that you live recklessly, but why not try to do something every year or so that brings you (and your family) joy? Even every five years if necessary.
As I’ve said before, joy is fleeting. It’s hard to obtain. And most people never experience true joy. But you can find those moments if you seek them out.
A young woman I know is, at this moment, living her best life, as they say. She graduated from college, took a job that made her unhappy, chose a new path, and started over. While she’s young, she’s taking the time to cross off a huge bucket list item –hiking all of the beautiful State and National Parks of the Southwest. Instead of waiting until she’s retired and possibly unable to hike the trails, she’s doing it now. Good for her!
A friend of mine is planning a dream trip for her family. As her oldest child gets ready to graduate from high school and leave the nest, Mom is putting together an Italian adventure for the family. She’s creating a budget, making a list of places they want to go, and charting a timeline. She’s determined to make it happen before her kids are gone because she knows that life passes by too quickly. Before she knows it, it will be too late, so carpe diem!
Maybe you’re unhappy with your major or your career and crave change. Maybe you dream of owning your own business or writing a novel. Maybe all you want is more time with your family. You don’t need a European adventure to make that happen. Even a trip to the park or a museum or a walk in the rain can provide the family time you crave. But you have to make the effort to make it happen. And here’s an important thing to remember – it’s okay if it doesn’t turn out the way you dreamed it would! The road to success is paved with bricks of failure. Even the Griswalds enjoyed their family vacation despite the ups and downs! Disney experienced failure after failure before becoming a success. I could list dozens of people who overcame adversity to pursue their dreams.
What matters is giving yourself the chance, and the permission, to make something happen. Tennis legend, Arthur Ashe, said it beautifully, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
The key is, figure out what you want to do and how you can make it happen, and just do it. Big or small. Near or far. Assess the effect on your life and your family. Pray for guidance. Gather input from your loved ones. Decide if what you want will make you a better person, lead to happier life, and fill you with joy.
Whether you want to travel, own a home, or change majors or careers, there is no better time than the present. Examine your life and your options, make a plan, create a budget, start saving, chart the course; just make it happen! As Walt Disney said, if you can dream it, you can do it.
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Riding Out the Storm.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, is based, in part, on her family history and is garnering many five star reviews.
Book Three of the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, is now available! Order your copy today of the “book that was a joy to read!”- Ann on GoodReads.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019).