My daughter left today to pursue her dreams, and she didn’t look back. She gleefully got on a plane that would take her to a dive center in Cozumel. For the next six weeks, she will earn her rescue diver and master diver certifications, thereby completing a journey she began a few years ago when she discovered life under the sea.
The timing seems strange, doesn’t it? We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, and Mexico isn’t exactly known for top-notch medical care. Word on the street is that no one is hiring right now, so quitting a nice, safe job as an elementary school teacher and pursuing an entirely different career path doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. After all, what are her chances of getting a job as a dive instructor or an aquarist when half the world is shut down, few people are vacationing, and even fewer are renting equipment among strangers?
But none of that stopped her. She quit her steady job – one that she was very, very good at – and planned the next step of her life as if she were planning her next adventure. “This is what I want to do,” she said. “I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t at least try it.” Her plan was solid, but then Covid-19 reared its ugly head. The cases in America skyrocketed, and we were no longer welcome in other countries. Borders have stayed stubbornly closed, opportunities drying up right along with them.
That means her plans evaporated, like water into steam. My husband and I encouraged her to move on to Plan B, to be reasonable, to return to teaching. She adamantly refused. “I’ll find a way,” she said. “I’m not letting this horrible virus or this horrible year stop me from pursuing my dream.” So she emailed, checked websites, made phone calls. She researched. With each new “No,” she became more committed to getting a “Yes.” And finally Cozumel came calling, and today she boarded the plane. This plan didn’t resemble her original one, but it would get her to the same place eventually, and that’s all she cared about.
There are lessons here. Lessons about perseverance and passion and ambition. But the lessons I’m learning go much deeper than that. They speak to a larger truth about how to come out of a very difficult time better than you went in. About not letting something completely out of your control completely control you. Why let 2020 stifle your growth or delay your fresh start, when instead, it can spur you on by helping you realize what is really, truly important?
Covid isn’t your hall pass to escape your current life. It’s that face-to-face meeting with the one person who tells you the truth about yourself. Stop ignoring what is staring you in the face. If you’re unhappy, now is the time to change. If you feel that you’re in a dead-end job, now is the time to find a path of new possibilities. If you’re burned out, take this time to pursue your passion. And if everyone tells you this is a bad time to do any of those things, prove them wrong.
Door after door closed in my daughter’s face. At any time during these setbacks, she could have thrown up her hands and determined it was not meant to be. My question to you is this: Are you deciding that our current situation is too hard, too impossible even, and that it’s better to just take the safe route? Are you avoiding that risk? Not taking that chance because if you do, you might fail, or worse, others may judge your choices?
What my daughter has taught me is that your dreams don’t need to make sense to others. Your happiness is not others’ happiness. Sometimes you really do need to just take a leap of faith. If you want to return to it, your routine will still be waiting where you left it. But your dreams might not be.