Just before completing this post, a close friend suffered a traumatic experience. The event will undoubtedly change not only her life, but the lives of those willing to undertake the task of supporting and caring for her in the coming weeks, months, and years. It made me think about the choices we make (and the choices that are made for us) and how lives are impacted.
A few years ago, I went back to school to knock out some pre-requisites for a Master’s program. Six years had passed since I had graduated with my bachelors degrees, and I was pleased to see older age (and a more sincere interest in the subject matters) meant easier grades and higher marks.
The last course I enrolled in was Sociology. One assignment in particular stuck with me.
Students were asked to take 10-15 minutes to prioritize the ten most impactful events in their lives. The event didn’t have to elicit a positive reaction.
I opened up my notebook and immediately jotted down a few: my marriage (resulting in moves, jobs, other relationships), my sister’s death (loss, adjustment, perspective), choosing a career (continuing education, working at a corporate facility that led to a research job at a medical school), starting a business (starting from scratch and learning mistakes many owners make, building relationships). I don’t recall precisely what else I listed; I likely put in a big athletic accomplishment, earning my college degrees, and spending my 18th year in Switzerland. One common thread was clear: I considered these incidents to be so impactful because they led to a domino-effect of doors opening (or closing). They were all catalysts.
Once I filled the page with all ten events (sorry, I don't remember 8-10), I had to prioritize. My paper was a mess of arrows and numbers. In the end, the translation looked something like this:
- Marriage / Meeting my husband-to-be
- Sister’s death
- Graduation from college
- Choosing a career
- Starting a career
- Athletic accomplishment (prob my first 70.3)
- Boarding school
I can’t tell you the professor’s objective in this exercise. What I do remember is how great it was to reflect on the things that helped make me the person I am/was.
I didn’t think of the list again until last February, when my husband and I took a weekend trip - our first adults-only getaway since having our son. Feeling a bit sentimental about how our lives had changed since becoming parents, I brought up the list. He was happy to share his perspective. Oddly enough, though, we couldn’t come up with more than three or four events; maybe it was due to the lack of pen and paper or maybe the emptied wine glasses. Anyway, my top three had shifted a bit, with both of our lists including the birth of our son. Even as I reflect on the lists now, I can't believe I didn't add the presence of two loving parents. It may not be an event, per se, but oh how important that environment was.
And so we dive head-first into the rabbit hole.
Who are the big influencers in your life (family, friends, guardian angels)? Did you ever live someplace that helped you reach or perhaps hindered your goals (geographical location or maybe a stressful living situation)? Did a chance encounter turn your life in a totally different direction than intended? Or maybe go the health-goal route: What are the most important aspects or exercises of your training plan (or do you have one)? Are all those miles/hours/mindless calories helping or hurting you?
One of my favorite aspects of this exercise was it somewhat forced a serious conversation. I don’t care how long you’ve been with someone, having a worthwhile, "adult" conversation is a nice break from the everyday monotony. It was interesting to think back on how our lives had changed, and will continue to change in the coming years.
So amidst the reflection, resolutions, and goal-setting this time of year brings about, I challenge you to create not a list of ten, but a Top Five of your own. Events, people, places...just pick one and go. How has your list changed in 5, 10, 20 years? Do your loved ones share the same lists? Are you happy with the ranking? Do you regret how one event impacted your life? Pop a bottle and share your list with someone you love. You might be surprised by what you learn about one another!
I’d love to hear your Top Five! Comment @comfy_uncomfy or leave your list here at www.comfortablyuncomfotably.life