1. One day, while you’re running on auto-pilot through your daily routine, worrying about whatever it is you deem worthy of concern, questioning the past and considering the future, evaluating yourself with judgment for every way you haven’t lived up to your ideals for the day, a striking thought will cross you. The future is today. This is the life you’ve spent years planning out and waiting for, but you’re not the person you pictured would be living it. It’s in this moment that people make a decision that defines the rest of their lives. They either sit in the remnants of who they could be or they realize that the only person they can accomplish being is who they are on that imperfect, ordinary day. The people who live the happiest lives are the latter.
2. The day you meet your first, not-out-of-convenience, real friend. I’m not talking about the people you talk to and do things with because you went to the same school or did the same activities or were repeatedly in the same place at the same time– these are friends we make because it’s fitting. I’m talking about the first friend you make that you don’t have to stay in touch with, but you do. Who was not brought into your life because your individual journeys crossed, but because the journey itself is your crossing.
3. One day you will be struck with the incredible notion that you are indebted to someone for something they did for you, especially when it’s something that you a) never appreciated before or b) saw as terrible and cruel and tragic. You realize that it was a crucial turning point for you. When it applies, this is when you learn what love is supposed to do, even when it’s at it’s worst. This is when you start to understand the uncanny unfolding of things, and how they are often so wildly out of our control, we’re better off focusing on our little, day-to-day motions, so as to not completely freak ourselves out.
4. One day you’ll come home to your apartment, throw your keys on the table, kick your shoes off and collapse on your bed because you’re exhausted, and you’ll turn over and look at the ceiling and think, but this ceiling is mine and it will be the strangest but most honest and inspiring thought you’ve ever had, and all of a sudden, you don’t care about being exhausted. You get up and make yourself dinner while you’re on the phone with your best friend. And you realize that this was the future you were dreaming of and you are who you thought you’d be.
5. One day the universe will take from you someone who is incredibly important. A parent, a friend– it doesn’t matter who, it only matters that it was unexpected. And it’s the first time you realize we’re not all unbreakable. For the first time, people take on a new fragile existence, and you appreciate them. You love them just for being.
6. One day, after all the years of planning, you will realize that you reached the place you were working toward and then you reached it again, and again, and you’re dumbfounded by the realization that life is a constant game of reaching for somewhere we’ll never quite be. It’s on this day that you realize that there is an art in just being. That the past and future are illusions. You may not be able to execute it perfectly, but you realize that living in the moment is the only non-delusional choice we have.
7. One day, something tragic will happen. Something thoroughly and truly tragic– maybe to your community, or to the nation, or the globe, but regardless, it makes you realize that you are not invincible, and it will make you appreciate every single day you were able to wake up and go outside and not worry about someone killing you.
8. One day, you’ll have a random, 20-second burst of courage, and you’ll do something that was previously not within your mind’s arena of feasibility. And it will be the best thing that ever happened to you. You’ll choose yourself and your truth, and maybe you’ll come out to someone or you’ll tell someone you still love them after all this damn time and in those 20 seconds of completely disregarding all the fears you ever had your life will literally take a 180 degree turn.
9. One day, someone will tell you that they love you (yes, really). Someone unexpected, and maybe you’ve known for a long time. And in that moment, that person who you thought you knew becomes completely different. They aren’t who they were to you, and you realize that people are only ever how we see them. They change as readily as we change our mindsets about them.
10. One day, you’ll have your “but I love me more” moment. And then your life will unfold like the finale of Sex & the City and you’ll be walking down a city street to “You’ve Got The Love.” I’m half joking about this.
11. One day, you’ll be sitting with a friend and they’ll indirectly ask you for your advice on something, and you’ll have the answer. They’ll ask you how you can be so certain. You’ll tell them you’re not, but this is what has gotten you through. For the first time in your life, you will be the one with the answers, not the questions.
12. One day you’ll think about who you were 10, 15, 20 years ago. You’ll think about your child self. You’ll wonder how that little person could possibly be the same you that you are now, but they are. You inhabit the same body, you’ve just changed. You’ll feel this strange, uncanny sense of re-connection, and you’ll want to tell that child a thousand things to get them through, and you’ll want that child to tell you what they’d do if they were in your shoes. And then some little light inside of you is re-ignited and you are inspired by the childlike wonders that you’ve lost appreciation for. This is the most important day: the one when you awaken the child inside that has not been gone– just ignored– because this is when things start to feel wondrous and magical again.
What do some of the world’s most influential and interesting contributors think about subjects important to you? Find out by visiting The Opinionator from The New York Times.
Read more insight and advice in our bestselling ebook here.
image – Shutterstock.com