A friend was telling me about how in high school he missed an important test. He had gone out of town on a Thursday night with a friend to a concert, and on the way back their car broke down. Unable to get home, they stayed the night with a friend’s family member, eventually making their way home the next day.
He missed an important test that Friday morning. Being an honest person, he told the school about the car breaking down on the way home — keeping him from taking the test. The school, however, promptly issued an unexcused absence, preventing him from taking the test.
My friend was crushed. Not only was the test important, but his honesty was costing him the opportunity to take the test at all. Asking his parents to fib an excuse that he had been sick would have allowed him an excused absence and to take the test with the other students.
“But you know what?” he said. “As big of a deal it was then, it’s not like it kept me from seeing the world.”
My friend is not kidding. He’s lived and seen the world — and he’s not done. But the lesson he took from his experience was that no matter what, you alone chart your own course in life. Each and every day you accept the world around you, try to understand the circumstances and make decisions to move you forward. Every day is an opportunity to live your life as you dream.
Perspective has been an important element over the course of life. My friend and I are now in the second half of working toward living a century. He even refers to this stage as midlife. I remind him of the math — how we’d have to exceed 100 by nearly a decade.
But both of us understand, from this vantage point in life, that very little of what seems a big deal at the moment is truly a big deal in life. Life moves at its own pace and, if you will make the effort, it will let you chart your own course over time.
Life is a bit like sailing a boat. Waters can become difficult and unpredictable. And winds can be in your face or at your back. But the one thing for sure is your direction rests solely in your actions, your mindset and your hands.
I wish I’d known that when I lost a parent. I wish I’d known that when I found myself on the outside looking in after a particularly difficult semester in college. I wish I’d known that when I found myself in what I thought was a dead-end job.
In the end, the outcomes all rested with me. There were moments that changed my life, but like the winds, I was able to use each as a catalyst to redirect my attention, my efforts and where I ultimately wanted to sail.
The difference is, I know now I can sail anywhere.