I hit a bucket list milestone today; it was one I thought would likely happen this year, but even then, when I finally held it in my hands, I felt only ambivalence — even though I’ve worked all my life to get here.
The reason: when I was a kid, I always felt that if I could hit this milestone, I’d “make it”. I’d have a nice car, a nice house, a loving partner in crime, and be able to care of my parents when they got old. I wouldn’t need to worry about which bills to sacrifice so that we could make the mortgage, eating dark meat instead of white because that’s all we could afford, or worry about my neighbors thinking I was beneath them. Life would somehow — magically, wondrously — become good. They’re the aspirations of a working-class immigrant kid who came of age in an affluent neighborhood, who felt like she would never be good enough.
Today, I’ve achieved much of that kid’s dreams — and am highly thankful for everything! — but I haven’t made it. The future is highly uncertain. It’s an uncertainty that’s familiar even as it is, once again, a discomfiting suit that I don.
I realize now that “making it”, to me, isn’t about the things I have or the goals I’ve hit. It’s about knowing I’m good enough — that I made good, and did good, and left a positive impact around me.
I know that I’ve made good friends, helped others along the way, and left a good impact.
It’s not enough. I know I’m being greedy, but I want more. I want to make an impact that will last through the ages.
I read that J.K. Rowling fell off the billionaire’s list because of charitable giving, and I say, now: “I want to be the next J.K. Rowling.” Not just because she brought wizards and magic to the mainstream (sorry, J.R.R. Tolkien, but Harry Potter reached far more readers than Gandalf ever did before Peter Jackson waved HIS magic wand), but because she made good, did good, and is leaving a positive impact in the world.
The difference today vs. yesterday and the day before and the year before and the decade before is time: I feel like now is, finally, my time. The work I put in up until now got me to where I am today, where I can work on the next bucket list milestone: one that has nothing and everything to do with the one I achieved today. I have a small window of time to achieve this; I know I will get there.
In a lot of ways, I’m still that immigrant kid. That kid can’t help but be a little proud of my milestone, but I realize now how naive it is to believe that all it takes to “making it” is a magic number. Numbers can change and mutate until it becomes impossible to gauge when it’s the right number, and I’ll never know if I’ve made it. But when people come to you and say, “You made a difference in my life,” then you know — you KNOW — you’ve made it. You’ve MADE an IMPACT.
And that is pure magic.
I’m getting back to the business of making it. I still have a long ways to go, and despite the uncertainty of my path, I’m really excited to get there.
As someone told me recently: “What are you waiting for?”
Just goes to show that life has a funny way of not working out QUITE the way you expected.