“What do you want to be?”

You’ve probably been asked this question repeatedly from the time you were old enough to understand what the sentence meant. Teachers ask kindergarteners, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” School counselors and college applications pose the same question. As you get older, the question arises over first dates and job interviews: “What is your five year plan? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” The very nature of the question presumes you have some authority or dominion over the course of events which will carry you to the next stage in life. It implies you have the control to affect your circumstances.

As I stopped to think about my life’s evolution over the past few years, I began to reflect on the amount of times people are quizzed about what they want to be, or in which direction they plan to go. If you don’t have a certain or impressive answer, it can be maddening. While I, like everyone else, pondered my future from a young age, I can’t always relate to aimlessness regarding dreams and career goals. I knew very early on what I wanted, and I was determined to achieve it.

As a younger woman, I was always dreaming of the things I wanted in life and concocting plans to make them happen. Design was something I felt connected to early on in my life, and I was determined to figure out how it was going to fit neatly into my plan. Entrepreneurship was close to my heart and in the forefront of my mind. I learned everything I could about my interests, throwing myself into mentoring circles and environments which would grant me real life experience, and voila! Lots of hard work, wisdom and many years later, I’ve been able to accomplish several of my goals. Being in control of your vision, your work ethic and yourself in general are key when it comes to goal-getting; but control can end up controlling you, if you’re not careful.

Everyone can relate to life changes occurring at lightning speeds. One day you know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re going, and the next you’re crumbling underneath the weight of unfavorable outcomes and unforeseen mishaps. Life is like that. Parents become ill. Careers take a turn. Late-term miscarriages occur. Marriages dissolve, and plans change. Forget a box of chocolates, life is often more like bombshells dropping when you least expect them and jolting you out of your peaceful safespace. For those of us who have always successfully maintained a bit of control, these uncontrollable events can leave one feeling more than a little bewildered.

Surprises are inevitable. We live in a world with other people, and humans are fallible beings. We make mistakes, we fail and we disappoint others. Sounds pretty bleak, huh? It isn’t. It’s a reminder that during the hardest moments of my life when my thoughts are racing and my stomach’s in my chest, the world isn’t ending just because I’m not able to “fix” everything. My need to know the “right nows” and the “later ons” is often met with silence, and there isn’t a countering action that will change that.

It’s a harsh but simple reality: some things will never be within your command. Sometimes those “things” are health related. Other times they’re financial. Your kids may fall into that reality at some point in your life. Control is a great characteristic to have when it keeps you balanced and collected. It backfires when it’s a weapon used to dictate. Most of us don’t like the idea of being controlled, but we never consider the idea that control itself becomes dangerous when we are controlled by needing to be the master controller.

I’ve had my fair share of uncalculated life circumstances, and they’re never easy. What they are for me, though, are learning tools to assist in my continued personal development. I still have the occasional moment of panic when something I love is in limbo or unsecured, but I’m learning to face the facts about control…

I need to breathe through the moment. I have to release and relinquish control over the situation. After all, I have never been the one completely in charge, anyway, and that’s just fine with me.

It has to be.

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