I’m sitting on the couch with my then-boyfriend on New Year’s Eve. We are with his mother a petite and loving woman who I respect and trust. Someone mentions my eighteenth birthday which is about a week away and right then, I get smacked with a realization: I have no life plan.
People considered me artistic because all creative stuff was easy for me. Classmates said my name in the same sentence with “famous artist” a lot. But no one hands you the playbook. No one had the slimmest notion of how an artist becomes famous.
When the strobing Times Square ball drops, I feel rising panic during the countdown. The spectacular landing has everyone whooping “Happy New Year!”
I explode in tears.
“What’s wrong?” his mother asks.
“I’m graduating this year and I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life!”
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing you can do is keep your mind young.” ~Mark Twain
Today, sitting in the bright afternoon of a beautiful day, I think back to that younger me. No one ever asked me if I wanted to be an artist. It was tacked onto me early in life until it became the rote answer. What’s really funny? That wasn’t what I spent my free time doing. I spent it writing. At that time, not much about life made sense to me and I lacked any sense of purpose. I had no clear vision for my life. The person who led me to my true calling was not yet born and would not arrive until my late 20’s. It would be 13 more years until my purpose crystallized. I would, however, continue closet writing.
Like many kids her age, my daughter became involved in cyberhoods like Facebook, Myspace and online journaling. It was all new and confusing. Curiously, I wanted to learn more. What do people write on a web log? She helped me set up a blog and it sat forgotten for two years. My daughter found a writing group. I went once and was hooked. When I (re) discovered my true passion–writing–life started making sense.
I developed plans. (Learn how to be a great writer.) I had a goal. (Get published.) I developed layers and evolutions of plans. Who knew the computer age would make so much sense to me? But, that very thing, casting words into The Net through blogging, fueled the next phase.
What’s next for you?
It’s never too late to start learning. Consider your own life. What abilities do you possess? What abilities do you want to acquire? Each new skill lays the groundwork for learning another. By seeking out people who can teach us what we need to learn, it’s possible to learn more very quickly. It might not seem like much forward progress. Then one day it opens the door for an unexpected opportunity. Those opportunities can change our lives.
When I learned to type, (not pecking but real typing) it opened the ability to jot down ideas while observing, being a transcriptionist (it pays!) and not hunting letters on my keyboard. The ability to type means faster transition from idea to intellectual property. (Writing books, stories, blog posts, white papers, case studies.) All the abilities I’ve learned over the last 10 years (how to blog, tweet, chat and Uber conference) I now use in my work life. These were not available the day I graduated from high school, but I determined to keep reading and educating myself.
What if I had believed that old adage, You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
The key to a fuller life, discovering your potential is being curious and the desire to keep learning. What is it that you’ve always wanted to know? Always wanted to try? Today, make a quick list of items. Have you always wanted to paint? Write? Wanted to take up kayaking? Photography? Who knows what magic awaits by just taking the first step.
Share your list with us. We’ll encourage you and cheer you on!