In my early 20s, I had a desk job selling office supplies to offices. It sounds about as fun as it reads, but to a kid who was used to name tags and uniforms with hats, sitting in front of a computer made me feel like Warren Buffet. I guess you could say it was my first grown-up job with my first grown-up boss.
For the purposes of this story, it would be great to tell you some flowery platitude about how he was “like a father to me” or “always knew just what to say.” However, that wouldn’t even be close to true. His name was John and he wasn’t either of those things. In fact, he was obnoxious, loud, and something of a misogynist. The way he spoke to women was deplorable and the way he spoke about them when they left was even worse. I wasn’t a big fan.
I say this not to slam him. I’m saying it because it showed me early on in my adulthood that life-changing advice can come from anyone at any time. Words of wisdom don’t always come from saintly figures. Often, the source will surprise you.
My wife today was my girlfriend back then and we had been dating for about six years. I was entering the age when people started to question me about getting married and I was pretending not to hear them. One morning, in his big bellowing voice, John sat next to me at my desk.
How are ya?! How’s the wife?! Not the wife yet, huh? Ha ha! When are you gonna give her that ring? Huh? Put a ring on that finger! Ah! Where’s the ring! Get her that ring! HA HA HA!
He screamed at you even when he was happy. This was one of those times. I gave him the stock answer that I had been giving. It wasn’t just a brush off. It was the truth.
I will. I just want to wait until everything is perfect and I’m ready.
Suddenly, this beastly abrasive man changed before my eyes. His tone softened and his glare wasn’t as manic as it was moments earlier. He said this:
Look. Things are never going to be perfect and you’re never going to feel ready – for anything. Sometimes, in life, you just gotta do what you gotta do. Once you do, you find a way to make it work.
No one had ever responded to my “ready” excuse like that before. Usually they’d shrug and say, “OK. That makes sense.” His words, while shocking because he was the one saying them, seemed to be based in reality. I got engaged the next month.
I think about that day a lot and the truth behind everything he told me. Many years later, I can say that I’ve never really felt ready for any major moment in my life. Sure, I was prepared, but never ready.
To me, the difference between prepared and ready all is in my head. To be prepared is to have most of the tools needed to be successful. Ready is to have the confidence that you will know how to use them. It’s a tiny difference and a huge difference all at the same time.
I was never ready for anything before it happened. It started with marriage. I spent years pushing it off and waiting for that magic moment when a falling star would land in front of me and say, “Aloha. You are ready.” That never happened and wouldn’t have made much sense if it did. Truth be told, I don’t know what I was waiting for. It seemed to be a feeling of inner readiness that, had I not gotten married, I would still be waiting for all these years later.
I also wasn’t ready for my kids – either of them. When my wife became pregnant with our daughter, I was elated at the news. Still, though, a voice in my head wasn’t. It would keep whispering me to me, “What did you do? Why did you do that? What do you know about babies?”
I knew little about to nothing about babies. When Olivia was born, I was shocked when they allowed us to take her home. I couldn’t understand it. No one screened us or gave us a questionnaire to fill out. They just handed us a miniscule human, pat us on the backs, and said, “Keep her alive.” I was absolutely not ready for kids.
Yet, here they are and we’ve turned out great – all of us.
I wasn’t ready when my son was diagnosed with Autism. As someone who speaks way too much, I couldn’t comprehend how I could ever interact with someone who, as of today, doesn’t say a word. I didn’t understand Autism or how to raise a child with different needs. I thought, for sure, I would screw this up. I barely had figured out how to raise a daughter who wasn’t on the spectrum. Now I was raising a boy who was. I knew in my heart that I was not ready for that responsibility.
Seven years later, he’s wonderful, loved, and fully taken care of. I’m proud of the job we’ve all done with Lucas and the relationships we’ve built with him.
Having a quintuple bypass at 35? Wasn’t ready for that. I wasn’t ready to move to a new house or sever toxic relationships or change to a healthier lifestyle or start this blog or…well, you get the idea. I’ve never been ready for anything. Each and every time I face something new, no matter how many new things I’ve already conquered, it still frightens me. Yet, I go on. That’s all you can do.
You’re never truly ready in your own mind because you never know exactly what is coming. Sure, I saw other people raising their kids, but they weren’t mine. My son is unlike any other child I’ve ever met. That’s not a statement about Autism either. My daughter, who doesn’t have Autism, is unlike any child I’ve ever met. Autism or lack of Autism isn’t what makes them unique. The fact that they are mine does.
Readiness is a state of mind. Sometimes you just have to buckle up and move forward. When the big moments come, I handle them. That’s what I’ve been doing so far and it’s been working fairly well. There’s no need to stress about or overthink that next step. Life isn’t about feeling ready. Life is about living. That’s all you need to do.