A couple of years ago, I went to a conference, and the keynote speaker was an extremely successful woman. The title of her presentation was something along the lines of "Always Say Yes," and her point was that the reason she had been successful was because she had said yes to every opportunity--and that we should do the same.
It's a great concept and motivating, but it doesn't actually work. For example, if I get two full time job offers, then I have to say no to at least one. If I eat an entire cake, I will have to say no to another cake (presumably). If I say, "yes, I'll go live on a space station," I am then foregoing all of the opportunities for me on Earth.
Opportunity is finite.
A few months ago, during the election, my brother and I were having a discussion. He made a really interesting comment. "One of the problems," he said, "is that there is a limited amount of freedom to go around." Of course, my gut reaction was, "there is plenty of freedom! It's freedom!" But once I actually thought about it, I realized I agreed with him. Take me, for example. According to the Declaration of Independence, I have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But as soon as you give me the right to be alive, you take away someone else's right to kill me. If I have the right to be free, you take away someone else's right to enslave me. I recognize that this is a concept that could be argued to death, but the point is, depending on the society in which you live, what constitutes "freedom" can mean drastically different things, and there is no such thing as ultimate freedom, in which everyone can do anything they want.
Freedom, then, is also is finite.
Life is also finite, in case you hadn't noticed. I have been walking in the cemetery a lot lately, because I like to imagine the time bubbles of everyone buried there. I went in October when the trees were covered in orange leaves, and everything was bright and beautiful (and dying). Then I went again in December, when the trees were covered in snow and everything was dark and beautiful (and dead). And I thought about how the cemeteries in Baltimore were likely to be different, and how I might not walk in the Dover cemeteries again. It also occurred to me that all of the people buried in the cemeteries would never walk in them again because their lives had ended.
I'm not very old, but plenty of things have ended for me. My childhood. My teenage years (thank goodness). Four years of college. My time with my first cat, and my aunt Joanne, and my grandfather. My first crappy part-time jobs out of college. My first less crappy full-time jobs after my part-time jobs. Dating. Renting. And now, my time in Dover is also at a close. And there will be many more endings for me as I move through my life.
Everything ends. Even taxes, believe it or not (if not any time soon, you can be sure they will disappear when the universe ends).
Everything ends, and that's okay. Because when high school ended, college began. When college ended, adulthood began. When renting ended, ownership began, and when dating ended, marriage began.
When something ends, it leaves room for something else to begin.
I think if I were to write a speech about success, it would be called: Everything Ends, And That's Okay. Because success often comes when you begin something new.
So this year, I am going to try something new. I'm going to move to a new city and walk on new streets. I will explore new cemeteries and write new books. I will meet new people and eat new foods; try new marketing strategies and volunteer for new organizations; build new habits and grow new plants; live in a new house and buy new curtains; go to new grocery stores and try a new workout routine; get a new dog and vote in a new state-----
-----all the while, keeping in mind that eventually, this will end too, and something new will begin.