My friend Nathan was recently clearing out his room and discovered a list we’d made at our youth group eight years ago; a list of where we each wanted to be in 10 years’ time. I’m not sure what the point of making this list was – as we were at a church thing I presume we prayed for all of those things to happen – but eight years later there it was: a list of the people we used to be, and the people we were hoping to become. It was both depressing and hilarious at the same time.
There were a few stand-out plans on that list – my friend Anna outright said that she wanted to have changed someone’s life – but most people had hoped for simple things; to be married, maybe have some kids, a nice job etc. I hadn’t put any of those things. All I had wanted to do in the 10 years between 17 and 27 was to have my first novel published. If you knew me at 17, you know how typical that was. Of course 17-year-old Chloe wouldn’t dare to put marriage or kids or an actual proper job on that list; she was far too angsty for that. 17-year-old Chloe was a writer, damn it, and would not be defined by a husband or tied-down to any company. She would be known for her creativity, her independence, and her non-conformity to traditional life goals. If I’m honest, 17-year-old Chloe needed a bit of a slap.
When I first read Nathan’s list I was instantly depressed. I had written down one thing, one life goal, and there was no way I was going to achieve it in the 10-year timeframe I had set for myself. What had I been doing with the last eight years? Didn’t I think to write a book at any point? I should have made more time. As irritating as 17-year-old Chloe was, I felt like I’d let her down. And then I realised: she had also let me down.
As 17-year-old Chloe was still in the early stages of working out who she was I’ll let her off, but basically she sold me short. Writing and publishing a novel is a huge achievement, but that was all she had planned for herself. She didn’t dare to dream she could do more than one thing in 10 years? She didn’t think she could be anyone outside of being a writer? She believed in an all-powerful, all-loving God who knew her as his own, but didn’t make the connection that He probably had more in store for her than the narrow little identity she had set for herself?
25-year-old Chloe has not published a novel; she hasn’t even written one. She does, however, have a husband (but still gets a bit aggy if anyone attempts to define her by her marital status, thank you very much) and she does have a job – in fact, she has three. Eight years ago, all I thought I could be was a writer, but now – in no particular order – I am a Publishing Assistant, Deputy Editor of an awesome magazine and Content Manager for an awesome charity. I’m also a Wife, Friend and Family Member. I’m a Worship-Band-Singer, Sunday School Teacher and Partnership Group Leader. I’m a Baker, Upcycler (if that’s a word) and, most importantly of all, Follower of Jesus. 17-year-old Chloe would have never assumed she could do all of those things in 10 years. If I’m honest, 25-year-old Chloe still has doubts she can do those things! But the point is that I didn’t dream big enough, and I didn’t dream far enough.
There are still two years to go before we’re all meant to have achieved the life goals we’d set for ourselves, but we’d be hard pressed to tick everything off that list in two years’ time. Some of us are married, but some of us aren’t. One of the people on that list does have kids, but the rest of us don’t. Some of us have jobs we love or work in industries we’ve always been passionate about, but a lot of us are still figuring that out. In fact, we’re all figuring ALL of it out.
But that doesn’t mean we’ve wasted the past eight years. Lots of great things have happened to all of us that we never planned for, and lots of really bad things have happened that we certainly never saw coming. It’s impossible to know what life will bring, or why things happen to some people and not others, but I do know one thing: life doesn’t stop once you’ve ticked off your to-do list.
Maybe the things we hoped for will fall into place a little further down the line, maybe they won’t. Maybe there are bigger and better plans out there for us and we just have to discover them. But isn’t it a good thing that we won’t have everything ticked off by the time we’re 27? Isn’t it nice to know that in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years from now, we’ll all still be adding to that list and ticking things off? If you haven’t achieved everything you wanted to yet it doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it just means you have something great to achieve still ahead of you.
And who knows? Maybe 60-year-old Chloe will finally get round to writing that novel.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti