There might come a day where you’ll randomly remember something that triggers a nervous breakdown level of anxiety. For me, it was an episode of Even Stevens. Yes, the Disney series from the early 2000s that introduced the vast majority of us to Shia LaBeouf, and entertained me for a solid three seasons had now become a cringeworthy thought.
See, I remembered watching an episode that featured Shia’s character being involved in a school-wide chocolate selling competition. Curious, I did some Google-ing and discovered that it originally aired on November 3, 2000. NOVEMBER THIRD, IN THE YEAR 2000. It was nearly twelve years ago, yet I can vividly recall specific plot details and even the episode’s title, “Deep Chocolate.” I began doing that panicked math where you breathe heavily and use your fingers, coming up with a bunch of frightening number comparisons that do nothing but inflict terror. 2000 was 12 years ago. I’m 24. So that episode originally aired ½ my life ago. And 12 years from now I’ll be 36. Holy sh-t, this is moving entirely too quick, can we slow this life thing down?
I was sweating profusely (which did a great job of disguising any tears that may, or may not have leaked from my eyes); legitimately worried because I’m nowhere near as accomplished as I’d like to be. Thanks to Youtube, Netflix, persistent friends, an inability to say no and the soul of a procrastinator, I’m about six years off of schedule. And a lot of us feel this way; as if we haven’t managed our time to its fullest potential and now it’s managing us, firmly controlling our daily decisions.
It’s just uncomfortable to think of how fresh a 12-year-old memory is. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but I have the calendars to prove it happened. So when we recall that long ago in the past, it’s natural to consider where you’ll be that length of time into the future. 12 years from now, being 30-something is like, impossible to imagine considering I still feel 18 – 19 tops. I’ve come to find that a lot of people in their twenties or early thirties feel younger. Not necessarily immature, but just, youthful.
These freak-outs lead to us wanting an immediate, significant change that is often unreasonable. We can’t expect to do a week, month or year’s worth of work in a single day. We can’t expect to generate a legacy overnight. These quarter-life crisis moments of anxiety aren’t necessarily a bad thing; we just have to use them in our favor.
Think of your dreams, goals and aspirations as a fire. Maybe over time the raging inferno turned into a puny, candle sized single flame. These freak-outs are a bottle of gasoline. We can gasp at how dim our fire has become, pour all of the flammable liquid on the flame and have it blow up in our face, burning us out, or we can manage that fuel. Use some here, some there, never enough to create a firestorm, just enough to keep the fire burning. People have these moments of panic and feel as if a single, hasty effort is the answer – but a swing for the fence isn’t as likely to work. Consider a balanced attack. A best daily effort until we’ve reached those desired achievements is so much more likely to get us where we want to be, regardless of age. This quote from The Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith, is one that folks can live by:
“You don’t try to build a wall, you don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say I am going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that has ever been built, you don’t start there. You say I am going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid, and you do that every single day, and soon you have a wall.”
That’s what we have to remind ourselves. I had been putting a whole life’s worth of pressure on my mere 24 years of life experience. Nobody should do this, regardless of his or her age. Even at 50, 60 or older — if you’re alive at this very moment, there’s still time to add pages to your story and lay the bricks that build your legacy. There’s no sense in wasting un-promised, valuable time beating ourselves up over what we haven’t done. It makes much more sense to eliminate dwelling and focus on making that effort so that twelve years from now, we’re not saying, “Man, I remember when I was freaking about being __ years old. Now I wish I was that young.” The big picture is that we can’t change what’s passed us by, we can only do our best to be sure we make the most of whatever time we have left. And I plan on doing that, as soon as I finish watching this Even Stevens episode on Youtube – and a few of the enticing, related clips to the right of it. (Hey, don’t judge me, I’m just being extra cautious with my gasoline).