Thursday, February 04, 2010

Saying Goodbye to all the Selves You're Not Going To Be

I was listening to a podcast of Bob Edwards Weekend recently and he was interviewing author Arthur Phillips about his book, "The Song is You." In the course of the conversation, Phillips said part of the book was about "Finding out you're not going to be everything you possibly could have been at 12 ... and the process of saying goodbye to all the selves you're not going to be."

This phrase, "saying goodbye to all the selves you're not going to be," has remained in my thoughts. It's a beautifully eloquent, and elegant, way of saying something we've all felt, but that I've rarely heard spoken.

Some people have a drive, from a very young age, for a particular path. Studies show that most physicians know they want to be doctors by age six. I've noticed pilots seem to know from very early in their lives that they want to fly, and nothing else will satisfy them. Being a fire-fighter seems like "the family business" many times, with generations following in that service.

In some ways this passion, this certainty, is enviable. If you know in your early years what will please you then you can single-mindedly pursue that, without the detours most of us make through a variety of college majors and experiments in professions. But, it also means there are not many options for things that will make you happy.

I'm thinking even those with such a purpose probably have to say goodbye to selves they're not going to be. We've all heard children say they want to be doctors and pilots and policemen and teachers and railroad engineers - all at the same time. Yet, as adults we tend to settle into just one career path. Okay, maybe two or three, but certainly not the half dozen simultaneous ones we anticipate when we're young and see no limits.

I've never experienced that devotion to one idea, but I've certainly had to say goodbye to some selves I'm not going to be. But I'm blessed. There are many paths to happiness for me. Some I've travelled and some I yet expect to travel, but they all lead to happiness. While it might be bittersweet to say goodbye to some of those selves - those possibilities - other possibilities exist now that our 12 year old selves could never have dreamed.

So, while I've been saying goodbye to selves I'm not going to be, I've been making room for other selves yet to be.