Where do you want to start your day?


Where do you want to start your day?

Such an innocuous question, part of a marketing campaign for IKEA on their webpage for bedroom designs. 

But for some reason it stuck in my head instantly … where do you want to start your day. They’re asking, of course, what kind of space you want to be in when you wake up (because HERE, buy the things that will make your dreams reality!)

But there’s more to waking up than the room.

What kind of mindset do you want to have when you wake? What do you want the elements of your life to be each morning? It’s a decent metaphor for what you want your life to look like, first thing in the morning – the ideal. Before everything else – the people, the responsibilities, the work, the commutes, the cooking and cleaning and CARING and everything that life entails – occurs, what do you want? 

That also seems like an innocuous question. What do you want? Easy to answer, right? You should know what you want.

It isn’t easy. 

Some people make it look easy, but I know intelligent, mindful, introspective people who, if you asked them right this moment what they want, would not be able to answer. I’m one of them. Why is it so hard?

A friend recently asked me about my upcoming grad school schedule. And when I described it briefly to him, he pointed out that it would still allow me to go to my blind wine tasting group that I attend to help me pass my exam to become a certified sommelier. I agreed, and his response was, “Should get you to where you want to go.”

Something about that statement filled me with … I don’t know … dread?

Not because I don’t want to become a certified sommelier – I most definitely do – but because the fact is, I don’t have a “where you want to go.” Everyone around me seems to have that. I don’t at the moment have a destination in mind. I’m kind of stabbing at shiny things in dark water hoping they turn out to be fish. Except that I don’t know if I want fish. 

I’m just DOING and hoping that somehow that leads to happiness. So sure, I have a passion for wine and, because of my part-time-now-turned-full-time job, the opportunity to pursue that interest professionally landed in my lap. 

I’m not going to pass that up. But I’m not trying to be a sommelier on the floor of a restaurant so … does that make me some kind of imposter?

I have the GI Bill which will pay for my graduate school, and there’s a college about 1.5 miles from my home that offers a program in the Classics – a good, old-fashioned course in reading and critical thinking and writing and all the things that I believe ultimately make one a better human being. 

Suddenly, the opportunity to pursue a course of study I’ve always wanted has dropped in my lap. But I don’t have much of a plan of what to do with it. Does THAT make me some kind of imposter?

I’m assuming that knowledge gained is never a waste. But … I have no real destination. In three years, I’ve upped and given up all the so-called stable things in my life – a marriage, a government job, a retirement fund. 

And while I don’t regret any of that, I rarely go through my day thinking “I am so happy.” 

I’m not. I don’t know how to be. I try every now and then to think about when I’m at my happiest so I can recreate it and sharpen my focus. But it’s slippery. It doesn’t like to be pinned down. It isn’t cooperative, my happiness. It comes and goes so quickly, I can’t grab it and hold on to it. It’s independent and doesn’t want me back. 

I worry about two things when I write like this. That 1) I sound like the quintessential self-absorbed, privileged white American and 2) Life is too short to be this unhappy about one’s self-actualization.

I’m not entirely self-serving. I want to love, and I want to have fulfilling work that uses my innate skills and helps people. I don’t want things. I don’t care about things. I care about meaning. I care about people. I care about experiences. And I just want to be genuinely happy, a majority of the time.

Those answers about “what I want” are so vague, though. I have no practical clue about how to bring any of it about. So much of my life is just kicking at gravel, hoping I come up with diamonds. 

Maybe that metaphor is more apropos than I care to admit. Who ever found diamonds kicking at gravel, Jessica?

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