I thought college would be a fresh start. A place where no one knew me. I’d finally be free to be whoever I wanted to be. But changing my circumstances didn’t change my identity.
I was still me.
And I wasn’t someone I enjoyed spending time around. I’d been marking time waiting for things to be different. Soon it was clear college wasn’t magically going to make my life better any more than high school had.
When the people around me didn’t reach in to change things for me I blamed them. I isolated myself and blamed others for my loneliness. I saw those years as something to be endured—as time I had to serve before moving onto something better.
I hung all my hopes on a more satisfying future and checked out of my life as it was happening. I didn’t seek connection with people. I didn’t take advantage of opportunities to try new things. I just did the minimum necessary to get by. I just tried to hang on until the next thing.
Whatever it was had to be better than this.
Then the next thing came. I graduated, got married, and got a job.
And found myself again waiting for that next thing that would pull me out of a life that wasn’t all I’d hoped it would be. But this time the next thing on the horizon was retirement. At 22 I knew I couldn’t wait that long. I spent years surviving my life, waiting for a vague “something” that would finally show me my purpose and make my life enjoyable.
Surprise…nothing ever swooped in to rescue me.
Then I heard an idea that shook the way I looked at life.
Invest where you are.
What if my experience in college and beyond wasn’t outside my control? What if in living for someday I was the one responsible for isolating myself in the present? What if I had chosen to make the most of where I was, even if it wasn’t where I wanted to be? If instead of avoiding entanglements, connections, and involvements I had sought them out? What if I’d taken the opportunity to cultivate relationships and try new things, even when I knew my time there was limited?
Maybe I could have done more than just survive.
Maybe I could have thrived. And maybe I could have helped others thrive as well.
I can’t change the past and it’s not helpful to beat myself up over what might have been. But I can learn. I can grow. I can remember to invest where I am.
Even as I look toward the future I can pay attention to the people and opportunities around me right now. I don’t have to wait for someday to find satisfaction in my life. In fact, the way to have a life I want in the future is to fully engage and take steps to build a life I want here and now.
I don’t have to be a victim of my circumstances. I can choose to create something beautiful right where I am.
How about you? Are you engaging with the people and opportunities where you are right now? Or are you pinning your hopes on someday? How are you going to invest where you are this week? Who would you like to reach out to and connect with? What would you like to try?