You’ve heard it said, reassuringly, patronizingly, relentlessly your whole life (or at least you will have by the time you’re my age). “You have plenty of time” they say. Whether it’s your parents comforting you after a rough break up, or the lady taking your order at Bennigan’s, people just want to remind you that you have plenty of time to do whatever it is you need to do, and not to worry.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
Sure, the statistical probability that you and I will wake up tomorrow alive and well is pretty high, but that’s not what people mean when they say you have plenty of time. What they’re actually saying is that they want you to feel comfortable in your present situation, and that, if you want, I can go check on a couple of other tables and check back with you in a few minutes.
The danger there is that thoughtful decision-making can lead to complacency, complacency can lead to stagnation, and stagnation can lead to the Dark Side.
(Wait sorry scratch that last part, there’s just a Star Wars marathon on right now on TBS, like always. They show that series of films so frequently that I thought TBS stood for “Turner Broadcasting StarWars until I was 23. True Story*).
The truth of things is that yes, there is likely plenty of time to accomplish whatever you want to do in life — whether it’s to lose that weight, find that special someone, have kids, write your memoirs, (or, God help you, become an actor). But the part they don’t tell you (because they may not realize it themselves) is that there IS NOT plenty of time to get started. In fact, harsh reality is that you’re already overdue to begin your quest of…whatever you’re questing for. You have years to lose the weight, but today is the day to cut soda out of your diet and join a gym. Will you find Mr./Mrs. Right eventually? Absolutely, but you need to start working on you right now. Becoming more secure in yourself while single so that you’re better prepped for a healthy relationship can being today. And so can joining a dating website if you need something more tangible/actionable to do. If being a parent is your ultimate dream, you don’t have to get (or be gotten) pregnant today, but you do have to start having the discussion of family with your spouse, and it couldn’t hurt to start putting money into a nursery fund, either. That novel will only write itself if you sit down today and think up a killer opening paragraph (even it’s not the one you end up using in the final draft).
I’m not saying this to try and rip on procrastinators (Lord knows I log more time playing FIFA ’13 on PS3 than I do emailing my agent about scouring for auditions), I’m saying it because when somebody tells you that “you have plenty of time” there is a very good chance that what you’re actually hearing is “you don’t need to do anything but sit and wait and everything you’ve ever wanted will just drop itself on your doorstep.” We live in a culture driven by a self-centric (and completely incorrect) entitlement, feeding us the lie that simply showing up to life is enough effort on our part, and it’s up to someone/everyone else to give us the body/lifestyle/spouse/job/degree/haircut we want (actually that last one is technically up to someone else…but you still need to show up to your local Great Clips with a $20 in your hand. Tip your hairstylists, people).
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is completely ridiculous because nobody in their right mind is gonna walk 1,000 miles anywhere except maybe The Proclaimers, but those guys are Irish and crazy, the rest of us can just take a plane or maybe a train if you’re poor. But for the love of Pete (Sampras), book your ticket today. And they’re probably offering some pretty crazy holiday deals, too.
It will be difficult at times, and you will feel like giving up on several occasions, if not daily. But I encourage you to set up a positively-minded group of friends you can turn to for support (and/or liquor), and persevere through the muddy parts. In the movies they’d use a montage and some killer 80’s rock ballad to cut through all the long, boring days of the protagonist trudging tirelessly to their goal, but this isn’t a movie and you’re no Channing Tatum (unless of course you are Channing Tatum reading this, in which case congrats on winning People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive and maybe leave the GI Joe franchise alone, ok?).
In the end life isn’t a game you win or finish, it’s an endless series of days/goals/accomplishments where you try to better yourself from the previous days/goals/accomplishments. You will succeed, you will fail, you will have plenty of time for everything you want to do in life, in God’s good grace, and when you do I even promise to like one of your baby pictures on facebook (but try not to overdo it, keep it under a hundred a day if you can). I’m pulling for you.
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*Not a true story.