I remember my dad lighting the water rocket and it flew into the sky and all the kids in the neighborhood thought I was the coolest kid.
I remember getting off the train a few years ago when my daughter (now a teenager) was little and I took five photos of her running closer and closer to me: smiling, laughing, ready to be picked up and swung around.
Now that little girl has disappeared into the body of a teenager and I will never see her again.
I tried to find the photos. To remember that little girl. But I can’t find them. Gone.
Between those two moments is sandwiched me, squeezed into the blueprint of an adult along the way.
Crushed by time and the drudgery of worries, of responsibilities, of eventual death (father), of eventual change (teenage daughter), of aging (me), of the constant struggle (when will they call back, the crushing fear of loss, when will they want me, how can I best choose myself when the world constantly wants to have the first choice).
Nobody gives us the map. We have to draw it ourselves. With crayons preferably. Change it every day preferably.
But where do we begin? Nobody tells us.
Our GPS will constantly reroute and nobody told us that is ok. It’s normal GPS behavior.
Nobody will tell us that along the way there are many nice places. Stop and enjoy the tea and look around at the beauty, and meet new people.
Exchange new ideas, and maybe stop for awhile and learn, but then eventually we have to say goodbye and continue on that journey again. But when?
Nobody tells us how important it is to celebrate the moments where we reach a new destination on the map. To cherish the people we meet who are on the same journey.
To help the people who are struggling right behind us but have their hands out, ready to be helped. These are our people.
Nobody tells us that when we stare out the window and daydream while the adult brainwasher drones on that those moments are the highlights on the map.
I don’t care about any war. I don’t care about whether or not the sun revolves around the Earth or whether the Earth is flat or what religion is right or wrong. Or who is President.
I’m grateful for two things.
When I was a little boy I did two bad things. I would bite my hand all night and had developed a bump all around my fingers created by my teeth. The doctor didn’t know how to get me to stop.
My grandmother bought me superhero dolls. In the middle of the night she would take my hands out of my mouth and have me hold the dolls. So I stopped biting my fingers.
I also wet the bed every night. I would wake up soaked every day.
My grandmother would come into the room and wake me up around 2 or 3 in the morning so I could go to the bathroom. Gradually I stopped wetting the bed.
It’s hard to save the world. It’s easy to think of five or ten little things you can do today to help someone’s life completely change.
Give them something to celebrate. Make their lives a little happier. Even a single laugh is rapture for the body.
Five or ten things to help them make their map a little more clear. Their journey a little easier.
Everyone wants purpose, or to make the entire world cooler, or to create a virtual reality, or to lead the planet. Everyone wants to find their rocketship to take them into the universe.
We didn’t know if it would work. My dad said, “everyone run” and then the rocket took off and flew all across our backyards and I was happy and proud and only much later would I find things that would crash me down.
And much later I would lift my daughter up and swing her around while we both laughed.
Both of those moments are gone and I know I didn’t appreciate them enough. I miss my five year old. And I miss me being five years old.
That’s ok. I have today, and the map spread out before me, with coffee stains and creases, and words I can’t understand, and places that have no roads, and places I may one day go.
James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Leah Kelley.