Ambition... what a commendable trait! To see someone racing towards their dreams with every fiber of their being -- full throttle ahead! You're driving a hundred miles down the freeway, speeding by everyone in your way. The faster you drive, the faster you'll reach your destination! Suddenly your car comes to a grinding halt. You can't get it started again. You're stuck. What's going on?! You're forced to stop, or rather your car has forced you to stop, and instantly you notice the highway for the first time.
The road of life has been eluding you. You've been driving at such a high-gear that you didn't even have time to enjoy the trip. What started out as an adventurous road trip turned into a high-speed pursuit of some unforeseen destination. You can't even remember why you were driving there in the first place. And now with your gas tank on empty and no gas station in sight, what happens next? For me, that's when I finally found some clarity... right at about the time my car stopped and my ambitions had to take a back seat.
Oddly, it was one of the most profound moments in my life. I used to say the weirdest things when I was going through treatments like, "I know this is going to be the best thing that ever happened to me!"
"WTF are you talking about?!" I would often hear from my friends.
"There is no future, there is no past, I live this moment as my lasssssssst," I would jokingly try to sing. Being a musical theater nerd, these lyrics from Rent were a language my friends spoke, and this time they didn't sound so cliché. When you're forced to pull over, you have to take in your surroundings and focus on the now! I had glossed over those lyrics a thousand times, never understanding its true meaning... until finding that it had turned into my creed.
When I lost my singing voice at the hands of deadly cancer cells, unable to sing such songs, I constantly affirmed, "let me sing again" day after day. I finally know what all these lyrics are saying now! I get it! Let me sing again. Yet, with a paralyzed vocal cord the odds were slim... much like my chances of getting my car with an empty tank to start again. Thankfully, the mechanics were able to fix me, my radio even started working again, and eventually I was singing along to my favorite stations.
But as my life with cancer fades in the rear view mirror, maybe I don't want to leave it all behind. I have to move on. I know that, and I am. I've been blessed to drive away. "So let's go!" shouts that side of me with ambitions ready to be unleashed.
And again I find myself strapping in and pressing my lead foot against the pedal. My driving now is like a high-speed chase where the lessons I've learned along the way are the patrol cars behind me telling me to, "Slow down!" More often than not, I find myself needing to be pulled over, fortunately ending up with more warnings than tickets.
So, as I continue driving into the future, I inevitably start to get frustrated again. Where am I trying to go on this road trip? Yes, I can sing again. Woo hoo! So why am I frustrated? I got what I wanted... isn't that good enough? Of course it is, but not when I start speeding past everything that really matters again.
Just being able to sing isn't good enough. I want to sound perfect now ... Am I really thinking this? Am I not going to live in the "now" as I promised myself not too long ago? A professional athlete doesn't just step on to the field and throw a no hitter after being on the sidelines for two years. Why do I expect to be any different? Should the pitcher put away his glove? Of course not, but he should have realistic expectations of what rehabilitation is going to entail.
Ambition is great when it keeps the player out there on the field, but it's not so great when it takes you away from the present moment. The problem with constantly letting your ambition drive you into the future is that you don't know what the future holds. None of us do. So what's the point of driving a hundred miles towards the future? Can we instead embrace the journey we're on, trusting that we will eventually reach our destination? Think of all the sights you just drove past and missed because you were so focused and worried about reaching this unforeseen future!
Feeling good today and taking in what each day has to offer -- maybe this is what matters most. Not tomorrow. Not four weeks from now. Today! I realize now that I was happy during my treatments because I only had to worry about the present moment. I found my presence in the present instead of chasing the unforeseen. After all, when my time does come to an end at some point, what will matter? Having lived a life that I loved or one that my ambition chased to no end? You know the answer better than I... it's just getting harder to remember though, huh?
Have you found yourself running out of gas? Or forgotten about living in the present because you're too busy chasing the future? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!
Alex Kip writes a regular blog at AKip Productions. This post is a follow-up to his last entry, "Our Super Powers." You can follow him on Twitter here. Be sure to "like" AKip Productions to find out more about his premiere play My Other Voice, about his journey with cancer.