Last week my daughter, Taylor, messaged me: MOM, I’m not ready for the real world! She loves college life; graduation is a thief sneaking in to steal her dwindling and carefree youth. The real world is a bit like the boogie man. I get it. She is scared. She and I may be looking down opposite ends of the tunnel but I understand, because I’m a bit scared myself.
Today, I turn 56. Just as Taylor can’t stretch those last nine credits indefinitely, I can’t stop my life from plowing forward. Last Monday, I marked my retirement date on my calendar. Then, I read her instant message. My last excuse, “I still have a daughter in college”, vanished. Taylor, I am not ready either!
Then again, does anyone ever feel “ready”? The epitome of unpreparedness was a nurse handing me a tiny infant swaddled in a cotton blanket. As we drove away from the hospital, I was overwhelmed. But not by confidence. Terror, doubt, amazement maybe. I never felt less ready for anything in my life. Then, one day too soon, a school bus pulled up. That swaddled bundle ran outside and jumped on board. As I waved goodbye, I said to myself – “I will never see that little person again.” And so it went through the years: driving lessons; high school parties; that first day of college. We were never ready. Or, I guess, maybe we were.
Sometimes, you just have to jump into life feet first and cling to a blind and ridiculous faith that everything will be fine. Perhaps “ready” is not all it’s cracked up to be. Ready implies learning so rote that nothing will ever go wrong, a life devoid of surprises. I want my surgeon to be ready. The rest of us might be better served by fostering the impulsive risk taker who dwells within us. I want Taylor to live as though she is fearless even on those days when she is scared out of her wits.
When I look at my daughter’s friends and classmates, I glimpse a frightening future. How can these too young hooligans skateboarding in droopy pants be our scientists, doctors and teachers? Yet from this motley, excessively pierced bunch will come all those things plus perhaps a president or senator, CEO or Nobel Prize Laureate. These goofballs are our mothers and fathers, leaders and mentors. Not one in the bunch appears ready. I am reminded of myself 35 years ago as I rushed onto the scene – young and naive and completely ill prepared.
So my best advice to Taylor is to get out there. Try. Fail. Try again. Stare down fear. Learn your passion. Then live it. Don’t await “ready”. Grab uncertainty. Pick a path. And if that doesn’t work, pick a new one. Reinvent yourself. Believe in your abilities, because you have them. For just this once, trust me.
With each and every phase of life, neither you nor I were ever ready. Remember that playground battle cry from those wondrous, silly days of youth. “Ready or not, here I come”.