As the somewhat obvious yet profound saying goes about perspective, it really does all depend on how you look at it. Wherever you are in life, there is some struggle or suffering that you’re going through or about to go through. Somehow it’s always inevitable whether you’re a student, parent, young individual, or fledgling professional (or anyone in-between). But if you’re prepared with the right set of eyes (and most of us aren’t), then you’ll be able to tackle any setback, obstacle, or low point, all in good time. So forget trying to achieve Maslow’s highest level of Self-Actualization.
Forget trying to be perfect. You can even forget trying to fulfill your true potential, if just for a while. And you can even stop forgetting forgetting, as the Yogis and Jedis teach. What you might need is sharp, willful perspective, and a heavy dose of reality to get you to where you should be (and maybe where you want to be).
There are three ultimate and undeniable realities: Death, Nature, and the Unknown. The sooner you realize you’re incapable of controlling these three, the sooner you’ll feel a little release from Life’s cool grip. As you are dying a long time from now, who will you be surrounded by and what will your final wish be? What will you have let go of? If you can imagine your life from your final moment backwards to right now, then you’ll have constructed enough timelines to know what you really want (which might not be what you think you want). This isn’t meant to make you mediate on your own death, but rather to jostle you out of the current moment and consider the long arc of your life.
Consider this: between your twenties and retirement, you will live almost three lifetimes as you did between birth and the age of twenty. And then you’re going to have a brand new life in retirement. Most men die around seventy-six, and most women out-live men by ten to fifteen years (often twenty). Those nice, old church ladies? They’re living a second and third life after career and children, many of them in retirement and then widowed. Life is long and you’re going to have time, so prepare for early mornings and long afternoons, and plenty of time to look back to now and wish you knew what to change – and change it while you’re young. That should take some of the pressure off, but know that the dreams you’re not getting around to right now might be waiting for you on the other side of life, when the world will still belong to the young, fast ones.