I Can’t Be it All

How do you determine who you are, what you do, what you say no to and how in general you prioritize your life?

I suspect that for many people, there is no good answer to these questions.  The result is stress.  Mind-numbing, paralysis-inducing stress.  Without a filter of some sort, we are deers-in-the-headlights of data and culture.  
Others seem to agree that something is wrong.  
I vividly remember a snippet of conversational exchange as a young child at my grandparent’s house.  Thumbing through a book of science and nature facts, probably with Nixon or Ford on in the background.  My grandmother made the comment to me (as I was viewing a page on cryogenics) that I could grow up to be the President someday.  I remember thinking that this was an odd thing to say, an odd thing to be true, and an odd thing to aspire to.  
I grew up with realists – people who worked hard to achieve what they had in life.  I don’t remember a lot of conversations about me going to Harvard, or heading up the UN, or changing the world in any mind-numbing and socially glorified way.  Goals were modest.  Perhaps that’s more a testimony to the lack of direction I showed as a youth rather than a particular philosophy of life, but regardless, I grew up assuming I’d figure out a job to do and do it.  I wasn’t going to be the Next Big Thing.  
I suspect this conflicted with my adolescent, overly-romanticized views of The Meaning of Life.  Didn’t I have A Gift to share with the world?  Some deep insight into the nature of human existence?  A Great American Novel waiting to spring forth from my inexperienced mastery of what it means to be human?  
Apparently not.  I may not like admitting that still, but it’s a truth that is hard to avoid as well.  By the grace of God I’m blessed to do and be so many wonderful things, but very few (if any) of them are recognized by the world as being worthy of adulation.  I can’t do it all and be it all.  
Nor do I expect my children to, either.
These days, it seems tantamount to child abuse to say that I don’t have grand visions of my children graduating from an Ivy League school or becoming President or curing cancer.  They may do any or all of these things and I’ll be thrilled and proud and supportive of them each step of the way.  But I don’t think that healthy parenting means attempting to micro-manage their route towards such things.  
We live in an affluent part of the country, but I don’t think that the effort to do-all and be-all personally and for your children is exclusive to areas like ours.  Parents jockeying years ahead  of time to get their kids into just the right preschool, which will prep them for acceptance into just the right private schools, which will prepare them for just the right private high schools, which will best position them for Harvard or Yale or Berkeley.  Which will give them the best shot at a hugely successful and lucrative career.  
I have my biases like anyone.  There are things I’d prefer (and not prefer) to see my kids do when they grow up.  But most importantly I want them to love God.  I want them to be happy with themselves.  I want them to be able to identify things they’d like to accomplish and have the tools to accomplish them.  I’d like them to be realistic, but also enjoy dreaming, since sometimes dreams can become reality.  
Is it wrong to not only acknowledge that you can’t have it all, but to also say that at a very practical level, you don’t even want it all?  Is this just a sign of aging?  A malaise and lethargy of existence that beats our youthful energies and passions into mediocrity?  Or is there something more at play, something perhaps, healthier, than the lives of stress that so many people seem to be living – and teaching their children to live?  
I see the answer to the problem the above-linked article poses.  How do I filter the world and myself, and thereby hope to provide my children with healthy filters?  I have faith in the God who created the world, and who created me and my children without any of my input or guidance.  Who has declared that I am loved and have value not because of where I graduate from or how much money I earn, but simply because He created me and sacrificed his Son for me.  
I don’t have anything to prove.
Without this filter, what would my expectations for myself and my kids be?  How could I ever find a sense of peace with who I am, what I’ve done, what I’m likely to do, and how I can best help my children launch their lives?  I don’t know.  For many people (whether Christian, other faiths, or no faiths), I suspect the answer is that they don’t find that sense of peace.  They bounce from expert to expert, trend to trend, always feeling inferior and behind the curve, always envious of and competing with their friends and family for the best spots and the top honors.  Life becomes a race because if you aren’t racing then what are you doing and how do you know if you’re any good unless somebody else tells you that you are?  Unless your children are beautiful and gifted and grinding away at satisfying your own needs for validation, let alone theirs?  
When I was younger, my cousin told me
Boy you’re gonna be President.
But just like everything else
Those old crazy dreams just kinda came and went.
– John Cougar Melloncamp – “Little Pink Houses”

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