Once in Lifetime Plans and New Chapters in Life

The older I get, the more I realize, there are no such things as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Not even that five month trip I took one time to New Zealand.

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once in a lifetime

On Saturday I facilitated an orientation at my church for new leaders filling new positions in our new governance structure.  Watching people share their hearts, passion, and vision for these new roles, clarifying expectations, and being able to have a small part of this day was the culmination of an epic summer for me.

Each week this summer I felt stretched to my limit as I helped coordinate elements of this church transition and nominating process, alternately navigated my disappointment and elation about certain parts of my internship, and felt the full weight of being done graduate school.

However, in order to lead this orientation, which I desperately wanted to do, I turned down the opportunity to run one of the North Shore Trail Series races – despite my New Years Resolution and my 30 by 30 desire to do these things.

(Also – speaking of foiled plans – for the second time the Stand Up Paddleboarding appointment I’d made with friends was cancelled due to inclement weather – I may have to scratch that one from the lists.  Or blog about how i’m going to manage things that I’ve missed the window of opportunity on).

This choice between two things I really want to do is representative of one of my Secrets of Adulthood I think.

There are no once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

For me, this paradox, something both true and not true at the same time, comes up over and over.

As a teenager and young adult I felt bombarded by this phrase, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities were being thrust at me from all sides – to study abroad, choose a college, date, take summer jobs, travel.  Everything seemed like it gleamed with the possibility to change my life, and if I didn’t make the right choice I was going to miss out.  Trusted and not-so-reliable sources all had opinions on what the right choices were, too.

With a little bit of time on my side I’m beginning to see that there aren’t really any once-in-a-lifetime opportunities – even though, technically – everything is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

If you stand back a moment you realize – the event can be repeated. A five month trip to New Zealand.  Getting a college degree. Acting in a play.  Taking part in a flash mob. So you missed this one – don’t worry – there will be another chance with the right amount of money, time, or friends.

Taken as a total experience however, with each of the particular and terribly personal details in place – everything is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I won’t get to travel “by myself” again – even if I choose to go alone on a trip, simply because “myself” doesn’t exist the same way it did in 2006 – without a husband, child, masters degree, and deep rooted involvement in a local church. Even if I take the same trip, follow the same route, and go by myself – it won’t be the same – it will be something new.  It will be a different once-in-a-lifetime experience.

As much as I hate the cliche “live every day as if it were your last” when I consider the sentiment behind it – that each day is a very particular occurrence, that won’t happen again – I am inclined not to gag quite so much.

Although – if every day really were my last – I’d eat donuts for breakfast daily.

Here I sit – with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of job hunting for a new position in a new field.  I have a certain amount of trepidation and desire to run straight back into the arms of all or any of my old jobs (yes, even outdoor education).  I’m choosing to call this a learning opportunity, and to take it as a chance to continue to be stretched to my limits, because it’s bound to make me uncomfortable.

Yet, at the same time, this isn’t the first time I’ve job hunted, and based on my readings and research on the topic of career development – it’s completely likely and predicable that I will not only change jobs, but careers several other times in my life.  I will invent new ways to tell my story that make it seem as though these moments of self-doubt and transition were simply logical next steps that I navigated with ease.

So… once in a lifetime… or not.

Author: Beth M

I love new ideas & information, connecting people, and discovering New England adventures.

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