As a kid, one of my favorite video games was Crash Bandicoot. The concept was pretty simple: beat the “bad guys” in each scene, stay alive, and move to the next level.
Many of the levels featured special checkpoints, representing the point in the game to which Crash would return if he fell in a ditch or was attacked by one of the game’s quirky creatures.
On some of the more difficult levels, it was a sigh of relief each time you reached a checkpoint.
As Millennials navigating our first few decades of life, we hopefully have not been chased by any dragons, polar bears, or rhinos, like Crash was in that silly game, but nevertheless we have encountered numerous checkpoints.
“Where are you going to apply to college?”
“What are you going to study?”
“What are you going to do after you graduate?”
“When are you going to get married?”
We are faced with so many of these questions during our teen and young adult years.
Each feels like a checkpoint leading up to the next big question.
When my wife and I were preparing for marriage last year, hardly a day went by without one of us answering the question, “How is wedding planning going?”
We had a relatively short engagement, so we spent a lot of our free time preparing for the special day, and we felt incredibly blessed to be surrounded by so many supportive friends, family members, and colleagues during the often stressful planning process.
We were married in October, and when we returned from our honeymoon, it felt like we jumped right into Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the holiday season. The first four months of our marriage flew by, and it was not until February that it felt like we were finally settled at our apartment. Even then, we were still trying to decide where to hang photos and how to decorate our bedroom.
After anything in which you invest a lot of time, money, or energy, it can be natural to feel a bit of a void. Even with something ultimately insignificant to my life, like baseball season, it’s not more than 24 hours after the last out of the World Series before I find myself already wishing the next spring would arrive.
From my early 20s to the time my wife and I met to the time we walked down the aisle, there seemed to be a natural progression of “nexts.”
We have been loving married life. I want to relax and enjoy the beginning of our lives together, but I sometimes find myself asking, “So, what’s next for us?”
At times, I have felt attached to my Google calendar, looking ahead and trying to fill that void by figuring out the next weekend road trip, concert, or big occasion.
The search for ‘what’s next?’
The continuous search for what’s next is not just an internal struggle. Sometimes it’s a part of our everyday culture. The Super Bowl is barely even over before the sports media already begins the debate over which team will win it all the following season.
Self-improvement books and productivity tools seem to have become more commonplace in the past few years, and while they can have great value, I sometimes question whether they cause us to become more consumed with figuring out what’s next.
Whether it’s The School of Greatness or The Tim Ferriss Show, several of the podcasts I enjoy listening to fall into this productivity genre. They often feature longform interviews with high-achieving people in business, entertainment, and sports, and each episode is filled with tips, tricks, and best practices for success.
Yet, as fascinating as these interviews might be, I find that listening sometimes causes me to question myself.
Am I being efficient enough with my time?
Do I need a more clearly defined mission and vision for my life?
Can I really answer the question, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’
I have to remind myself, and I think we have to remind each other, that it can be okay to live in the present and not have all the answers. I come back to one of my wife’s favorite bible verses, Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is an appointed time for everything and a time for every affair under the heavens.”
Enjoying the ‘right now’
Marriage is sometimes negatively referred to as “settling down.” With that comes expectations of certain milestones and predictable landmarks.
My wife and I hope that many of those things are a part of God’s plans for us. We can continue to work toward the future, but we need to make sure that those next big life events are when the two of us are prayerfully ready to take those next steps, together as our little, two-person family. In the meantime, there are so many smaller steps and simple joys that are a part of marriage, too.
We have shared in the sacrament and celebrated with family and friends, and now we have goals and dreams for our journey together, but ultimately we can’t and probably shouldn’t try to plan out the entire future.
It’s okay to not know exactly what’s next and when. When you reach one of life’s checkpoints, give yourself permission to feel comfortable pausing to breathe the fresh air before you feel the need to sprint to the next level.