For sixteen years of my life, I was enamored with the Big Picture, the Ultimate Goal. I believed the only way I could achieve happiness was through success. Success and the Big Picture ran hand-in-hand, but it was like racing an Olympic sprinter. No matter how long I studied, how much I practiced, I could catch neither. If I wasn’t the best, I would never get into the Right College, get a Good Job, or find contentment. I measured my happiness by the times I was close to perfect, which weren’t often. I just wasn’t good enough.
This obsession with Perfection and the Big Picture almost ruined my life.
The harder I tried, the less perfect I was. I tumbled into a black hole of depression. I hated myself. I wanted to quit and give up everything I had worked so hard for.
Then I lost my mother.
It should have been devastating time for me, but, after the initial shock receded, I felt lighter, like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. In a rare moment of complete mental clarity, something had clicked in my brain. If I die tomorrow, how would I have lived? Crushed under the weight of high expectations, would I have truly lived at all?
I see this Big Picture and know that I must work toward it, yet I put no stock in it. Fighting for a dream doesn’t always bring me joy. I know that whatever my goal is will be closer later on. Why should I fight for it so hard today? There’s still time. If the Big Picture remains all that I focus on, life will pass me by; I will never get to enjoy any of it.
Today I appreciate that pleasure is gained by gazing at a star-filled sky, finding pennies on the ground, or watching ladybugs crawl across the deck. I believe in the joys of bouncing a dodgeball – not actually playing dodgeball, just bouncing the rubbery sphere against the wall for half an hour and listening to the hollow boing as it rockets back at me. Even something as seemingly trifling as blowing bubbles makes me smile. These diminutive amusements are examples of what I believe in. I believe in the small things that make life, not the Big Dreams.
Although I understand that I work daily to reach a greater goal, I know the grandeur of these future significant events is nothing compared to the ecstatic pleasure the “little things” bring. The Greater Goal is only one part of life. So much more composes the world. I still motivate myself to succeed, but when reaching for The Dream becomes too much, these little things make me feel like I already behold all that is great in the world.
For me, living is not just about significant moments that’ll be remembered forever. Living is also about finding pleasure in the smallest things, even if that joy will someday be forgotten.
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