Inspiration for The New Year

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela 

What an extraordinary year 2013 has been! With the publication of The Life List came countless unexpected joys. I’ve reunited with old friends, met wonderful readers and fellow authors, and became acquainted with some terrific librarians and booksellers. But perhaps the greatest joy has been the feedback I’ve received from my readers, and learning that The Life List touched them in some meaningful way.

I will never forget my very first message. It came from a young woman named Heather in New Jersey, a stranger to me six months ago, but today a woman I’m proud to call my friend. After reading The Life List, Heather was inspired to resurrect her old dreams. 

With the New Year on the horizon (and with Heather’s permission), I am sharing Heather’s words with you, in hopes that the circle of inspiration will continue, and that Heather’s quest to reclaim her youthful spirit might ignite that same fire in someone else, perhaps even you.

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Like many children, I once believed myself invincible. I was creative, carefree and fearless. I was lucky enough to hold onto that freedom until I was in my early 20s. I moved cross-country on my own- 4 times! I jumped out of perfectly good airplanes for the thrill. I seized opportunities, took chances, felt alive.

Jump forward a decade, and I had changed. The fearless skydiver now required medication to get on a commercial flight. The little girl who wanted 5 children of her own, grew into a woman so consumed with work and fearful of medical procedures that I decided having children would not happen. I worked diligently at a high profile career, but I neglected friends, hobbies, relaxing. The simple wonder I used to feel at the world around me was replaced by stress and impatience. I grew scared of many things – the state of the world, health issues, my personal safety. I was always grateful for my fearless early years, but I mourned the loss of the innocent carefree spirit I was sure had completely eroded away.

Like Brett, by all appearances I was doing well. I excelled professionally, although I struggled personally. I have a beautiful house, a great job, nice things. I had everything I thought I was supposed to have and I blamed my inability to be happy with it all on some internal weakness. My life did not feel genuine. I was not excited, passionate, energized. I felt disheartened.

Then, I read The Life List. I understood Brett right away. I was where she started. I cheered for her as she struggled to change- and her challenges were not easy; there was no magic solution. Brett hit road blocks. But as she stumbled, she still moved forward, and I could see her character growing stronger, and I watched as her life changed, and I finally understood. I understood that it was never too late to start over. That if you are on a path that does not feel genuine, you can change course. Our definition of success should not be tied to position, status, wealth, but rather happiness, fulfillment, authenticity. Brett’s story resonated with me. 

I started on a “Life List” journey of my own. I spoke with my parents, with family, and with school friends I haven’t talked to in years. I went through old boxes of photos, old diaries, letters passed in class, to get a glimpse of the part of me I thought I lost so long ago. I didn’t have a nicely plotted Life List, but I was able to put together the things that would have mattered most to my younger self. 

And something funny happened … as I read and talked to people who knew me in my younger years, I remembered … I remembered what it felt like to be inspired and unafraid and I began to change – I felt more optimistic, more hopeful. My internal dialogue shifted and I began to believe again.

The Life List reminded me it’s not too late to change direction or take chances. Will I be able to check off all the items on my life list? I don’t know, but I’m giving myself a year to find out. Unlike Brett, I don’t have any large inheritance on the line, but if I’m able to meet those goals I have something much more valuable at stake … my happiness.

So cheers to Heather from New Jersey, for going after that fearless girl she once was. And cheers to all of you, for never settling for a life that is less than what you are capable of living.

Wishing you an inspired, hope-filled 2014.