Monday, January 14, 2013

Defining Moments

Since I was a teenager, I've felt like my life was missing that one major defining moment. When I heard stories about people who found God after suffering injury or illness, or about people who suddenly re-arranged their priorities after the loss of a job, the first question to mind was “what moment defined me?” When I couldn't answer this question, I started to regret not having one. What defines me? What experiences do I look to for confidence in my choices? For the longest time, I wasn't sure.

Don't get me wrong, I've had my ups and downs. There were times in school when I realized being smart wasn't enough, that I needed to start applying myself. I had times when I ignored my finances until I landed myself in a rough spot, and I had to learn to the importance of a budget all over again. Over and over, I've crossed lines to remind myself where the line was. I've done wrong to the point that it's taught me to do right. But each time, I wound find myself making the same mistakes again. Why didn't those moments define me like they had others? Why didn't I learn?

Usually, I assumed that my Learning Moments just weren't strong enough to be Defining Moments. I had felt sadness, but never despair. I had suffered loss, but never lost it all. I had fallen low, but never hit rock bottom. And as the chain of Whats and Whys continued, I always wondered the same thing. Do I have to hit rock bottom to know what defines me?

From time to time, this thinking skewed my focus. Sometimes I wanted to suffer loss so that I could feel defined. Other times I allowed myself to make bad choices, thinking that once I made enough bad choices I would find my defining moment. In my Junior High years, I read a few of the Left Behind books and dreamed of being “left behind” so that I could prove myself. Luckily, when you're a teenager being raised in a good, moral family, you can only make so many bad choices before someone jumps in to start correcting them.

Now, it's probably been a decade or more since I've thought about this. Until recently I hadn't identified the catalyst for this change. I think the difference is that I don't feel the need to be defined anymore. Maybe it was an adolescent dream to want my circumstances to define me. Maybe I was scared that if I defined myself, I would do it wrong. Maybe I thought that the person I was wasn't significant enough, and I really wanted to be redefined. It could have been any combination of these, but the point is that those feelings subsided and gave way to a little bit of maturity.

We can probably talk for a couple of days about what maturity really is. My answer for myself is this. Maturity is not waiting for others to make your decisions. It's choosing who you want to be day after day, and taking action toward being that person at every opportunity. It's setting your priorities today, and not changing them tomorrow when you don't feel exactly the same way.

In case you didn't notice, I said my life gave way to “a little bit” of maturity. Hopefully the people who know me would testify to my maturity as I've defined it, but most of them also know that I have plenty of room for improvement. The biggest part of maturity, as I see it, is picking up where your forward momentum left off, whether it was 5 minutes ago or 5 decades ago, and taking a couple of new steps in the right direction. Isn't that really all we can ask each other?

Always moving forward,


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