Eight years ago I decided to give up.
Here’s what happened.
Right after my oldest child was born, I missed a meeting I’d scheduled. I’ve long since forgotten what the meeting was, but at the time, the pure fact that I had forgotten it appalled me. Who had I become? How in the world was I going to save the world, be the best, run my own business, become executive director of…something, if I couldn’t remember to keep a meeting?
Then, when my son was about 6 months old, the straw broke the camels back. We were grocery shopping. It took me two hours to do something that I’d always prided myself in completing in less than 30 minutes. Pride? Craziness. As if grocery shopping is a race. And, anyway, I worked at that store for 4 years in college, so completing a 30 minute trip gave me a significant competitive advantage over my…competition?
And then I gave up. Approximately 90 minutes into the trip and after at least 2 diaper changes, one nursing session and (maybe) a few tears (mine and his), I stopped and looked at him there. I was at the culmination of too many years trying to do way too much. And the words came to me out of nowhere: I do not have to be the best. I only have to do my best.
And now it’s my mantra.
I know that every day I do the best I can with the information I have available. I find this view brings me comfort in letting things go that used to drive me crazy. Mistakes used to freak me out. I’d play them over and over again in my head. Now I’ve worked out a process for bidding them goodbye. I’ve always been impatient. I still am, but I do my best to keep impatience as a piece of inspiration and not a set of handcuffs. I surround myself with people and experiences that bring me joy and try to take it easy on the ones that get me down. In the decision to stop striving so hard for the things I wanted, I found the freedom to accept my dreams when they landed at my doorstep. And, sometimes I actually fail. And that’s where giving up is so rewarding. I’m not the best and never will be, but even in failure I’ll know I was (and am) trying my hardest.