If there’s one word that leaves a sour taste in my mouth more than any other word in the English language, it’s content. I’m not talking about the words that you write or something that goes in a box. I’m talking about the state of being content.
What is the point in just being content? The way I see it, content is settling for a lesser version of yourself and a lesser version of your life.
Maybe I dislike content so much because for several years, I had to sit by and watch content steal the life out of my once strong, confident, and determined mom. I watched as she gained weight, let her hair fall lifelessly around her face, and as she let the years pass by unnoticed. Whenever I would question her, asking her why she let her life become that way, she would always reply, “Adrienne, I’m content.”
Her words used to fill me with confusion and fury.
More than that, they filled me with a deep sense of helplessness and sadness. My mom’s life was withering away in front of me, and there was nothing I could do about it. My mom, who had sacrificed so much for me over the years, who had always been my immovable pillar of love, encouragement, and support, had become a shell of what she once was. She had stopped dreaming. She had settled.
It’s something that happens to a lot of parents, I think.
They want more for their kids than they want for themselves. Somewhere along the way, the idea cropped up that it’s a noble thing to sacrifice everything for your children. Perhaps you are thinking, what’s wrong with that? Or, you don’t have kids, so you couldn’t possibly understand. But I’ll tell you what, as a driven and fiercely determined teenager, I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t understand how my mom, who would give anything to see me achieve my dreams, had none of her own. She had traded them for what she thought was stability and security.
Until one day, he didn’t come home.
It was the beginning of a very difficult couple of years for my mom. And yet, It was also the day she stopped dying…and started to live again. A year from that day, she was twenty pounds lighter, wearing her bathing suit and sarong, dipping her toes in the sand and sipping a pina colada on the shores of Megan’s Bay. She had started dating again. She was smiling and laughing again. Most importantly, she was dreaming again.
She became a living version of the George Strait song, She let herself go.
She finally realized that she didn’t want to settle for content. In fact, she never really had been content. She had been afraid. Afraid to be alone. Afraid of being embarrassed. Afraid to lose it all. Afraid.
Afraid is a dark and terrible place to be.
It’s the place where clouds darken the sky and blot out the sun. It’s a place where invisible shackles chain you to your house or to someone’s side. It’s a flat land where the colors are drab and the food is bland. It is and endless cycle of monotonous existing.
But do you know what lies just across the dark waters of afraid?
The shores of Hope and Dreams. It’s where people are no longer afraid, they are alive.
Now, I’m not saying it’s all sunshine and roses. Far from it. In the land of Hopes and Dreams, some dreams are achieved, and others are shattered. Love and sorrow dwell abound, along with every feeling in between. You will find the most delicious foods and vivid colors. You will succeed and you will fail. You will experience the good and the bad. In the end, you will learn, you will, grow, and you will know what it means to experience life fully.
You see, that’s the thing about life. To truly experience it, you have to take it all in.
To reach the highest of highs, sometimes you have to climb from the lowest of lows. But, once you are up there, you will know that every step has been worth it. You can look back on all that you’ve gained, all that you’ve learned, and all that you have become. You can breathe in the sweet air of no regrets. You can look down on the Valley of Content, and smile.
Which land are you living in? Are you settling for content?
Have you let your kids or someone else’s dreams become more important than your own?
I’m not telling you that’s a bad thing. Your kids and your loved ones need your love and support. They need your encouragement and maybe even your sacrifices. But they need more than that.
They need your example.
They need to see you conquering your fears and achieving your dreams. If you want to see them reach their highest potential, you need to be reaching for yours. If you dream of seeing your loved ones living a life of purpose, meaning, and happiness, if you wish for them to fully experience the gift of life, then you must lead the way.
My mom used to say to me, “What’s wrong with being content? I’m fine with what I have and the way my life is.” So I finally asked her, “You mean to tell me there is absolutely nothing about your life that you would change? That you are perfectly happy and fulfilled?”
“Then you are not content! You are just settling.”
There is always room to grow and we always have more to give.
To hell with content.
Be wise. Live life!