Usually, as a kid or a teen, when you hear those words, you think of them as the nostalgic utterances of old age. Middle aged folks wishing they could relive their younger days, or grown ups who, along with that sentence, are going to encourage you to take life by the reins and do something successful and brilliant with yourself. Which usually involves going to college, getting a degree, and launching into a career. Change the world! Make your mark! Occasionally you hear it said in a kind way, with an elusive glimmer of excitement behind it. Your whole life... A million wonderful possibilities. Travel, adventure, love. So much potential.
But most of the time, you don't really understand it. Duh, you have the rest of your life. More life than them, at any rate. But really, what does it matter? Sometimes you think you're going to enjoy your life more than the current grown ups seem to. Never grow up, forever 21, and all that, right? Not going to have our adventurous, fun-loving spirits squashed by adulthood.
Maybe that's not the norm. Maybe that was just me. I'm a ponderous person by nature, but that phrase, "the rest of your life ahead of you", never got much thought.
Last year I turned 21. Something happened. Well, many things happened. The year before, my life, and my whole family's lives, took a dramatic course change after my father retired from the military. Even in my 20th year I recognized something I had never thought of in my teens.
I have my whole life ahead of me.
All of it. And it's more than just a series of ages, moving from the twenties to the thirties to the forties. It's a life.
But it didn't sink in until 21. As I told my friends, when you're 18 and 19, you feel older, because you're at the top end of the teen segment. You think 20 is going to be the same. Just another year older. But it isn't. All the sudden, you're not on the top anymore, you're practically a child. You're an adult, but you're a child adult, at the very beginning of the beginning of your adult life. You knew it was coming, but suddenly you're there.
And you have the rest of your life ahead of you.
It's all yours. Your destiny, if you want to be dramatic. (Which I normally am. Hee hee.) There's a strange and terrifying mixture, in the potion of adulthood, of choice and circumstance. You're restricted by where you have been placed in life, but at the same time, your life is your responsibility, not anyone else's. It's up to you to do something with it. Or not do anything with it.
But even with your choices, there's only so much you can control. There are other people who make choices with their lives that affect yours, and also things that just happen, regardless of what you do.
And in the midst of all the strangeness and destiny, there's something I haven't quite grasped yet. Something I don't quite understand. I used to think I'd get life all figured out, hit adulthood, and then shoot off. It's proving to be quite the opposite. I turned 21, and the first thing I accepted was how limited my knowledge was on living life. I didn't feel like I'd been entrusted with the knowledge of the Grown Ups. In fact, I came to realize that that knowledge isn't out there to be entrusted. It's something I have to learn on my own. How? By living.
So all this has made me realize two things for certain. First of all, the wisdom of age. Without an instruction manual on How to Be An Adult, there are only a couple things we can do. Live it and see what happens, or talk to people who have already been living for a while and figured a few things out. No, they're not going to know everything, but they know more than you.
I have learned to listen, and truly value the wisdom of my elders. Truly, there is no substitute for experience. And when one reaches an older age, still not knowing exactly how to tackle the rest of your existence, you do know how to handle some of the issues of younger life. Useless to you, it's treasure to youth wise enough to seek it out.
The second thing I have learned is courage. Life takes a lot of courage. At least, any life worth living does. And I've discovered that a lot of things take courage. Faith, love, hope, dreams, kindness... All the things life is made up. Trials and temptations aren't the hard part, it's holding onto goodness in spite of them that takes real strength. That's what makes it all so frightening. The stakes are so much higher once you realize how grand the scale of life really is.
Humility and courage. I've heard those words my whole life, but now, with the rest of my life ahead of me, I can see a little more clearly what they really mean. At 21, with the rest of my life ahead of me, those two ideals have suddenly and unexpectedly become my sword and shield, in a quest with an end I have not yet determined, but a journey I am destiny bound to travel.
Told you I was dramatic.
Now, I have written all that as a very long goodbye. With life looming over me, a great many things are changing both within and without myself. It probably sounds a bit melodramatic by now, but take a moment to consider my honesty and sincerity. I am, in fact, trying to quietly explain what is going on. Do not allow your imagination to run away with you. Some great changes are quiet, and not grand, but they are nonetheless equal in quality. Inner journeys are often the most momentous, and the most silent.
So for now at least, and possibly for some time, I must retire from Barefoot Bladeweaver. By no means am I abandoning it. Just taking a vacation. My focuses have and must shift elsewhere for a while. Likely I will be writing elsewhere on the internet over the summer, and when I get around to that, I'll post a link here.
FtGG is not forgotten. Dana and I are still on track for publication, and have been scribbling out the climax and preparing a plan for editing, as well. If I do say so myself, it's a pretty good showdown. You won't want to miss it. I will post here when it's finished and published, and also offer discount codes (if I can figure out how to create them...) to those who have been faithful followers since I first started posting its segments here.
Thank you, all of you, who have read and enjoyed my blog. I guess it sounds a little shallow to be so grateful to people I've never met, and possibly don't even care one way or another about my little blog, but truly, I write because others read. There are some who write to discover themselves or amuse themselves, but I don't. I write for you. Whoever and wherever you are. I know there are others out there like me, and I want to encourage them.
Dana told me once, "Never give up on your dreams." Now I will tell you, it gets hard. But trust me, a dream that changes and grows does not mean it has died, it means it has matured. Dreams have journeys.
Just like you.