There’s a “Dear Abby” column from 1994 that always struck me as particularly important, and for about a decade I carried the clipping around in my wallet until finally it disintegrated from being folded and unfolded so many times.
In the column, a 36-year-old woman calling herself “Unfulfilled” – she explained that she was a college dropout who had been working in the pharmaceutical industry for years – had written to the advice columnist to ask whether she should go back to school to become a doctor, which was her original and lifelong dream. She wrote, “If I go back to college and get my degree, then go to medical school, do my internship and finally get into the practice of medicine – it will take me seven years. But in seven years, I will be 43 years old! What do you think?”
“Dear Abby” – at that time still Pauline Phillips writing under the pen name “Abigail Van Buren” – responded by striking at the core of our very human tendency to procrastinate, including putting things off because the circumstances aren’t ideal.
The answer: Dear Unfulfilled: And how old will you be in seven years if you don’t go back to college?
We’ve all done it, right? Delayed doing something that we really want to do or that we know is right for us, often because something around the decision isn’t perfect. I’m not going to eat healthy at dinner because I already ate a brownie for lunch, and so it just doesn’t matter. Or, I’m not going to take that trip with my friends because my co-workers will resent my taking the time off. Or even, I haven’t heard back from an editor on the three queries I sent out, so I’m not going to send anymore, because what’s the point?
Really, all we’re doing is making excuses, and that’s usually because we’re scared or insecure. Deep down, we feel that we don’t deserve to be successful, to enjoy our lives, or to experience something good.
But that’s a bunch of baloney. Each of us is as deserving of success and happiness as anyone else, and if we don’t stop coming up with ways to block ourselves, we’ll find that those seven years (or way more) have passed – and not only are we still that many years older, but we’re also the same age we would be if we’d done the hard, scary, unfamiliar thing that ultimately had the potential to bring us closer to the lives we long to experience.
Travel freelancers and bloggers especially tend to tote around a carry-on bag filled with doubt and self-constructed roadblocks, but guess what? Every writer and every blogger I’ve ever known has had a tale of coming to that place where they finally had to just go for it“—to start a travel blog or send out that first story query. They refused to let the second-guessing and the uncertainty keep them from reaching for their goals and following their dreams, and the result is that they’re now getting paid to see the world and share their tales with like-minded travelers.
So, what will you accomplish before you’re another seven years older? Seize the day – and that means today or tomorrow, not a week or a month from now – and see where it takes you.