I’ve felt kinda lost most of my life. This world and people didn’t make much sense to me. I could relate to things more than people, so I would lock myself in my room and play the guitar, work on computer programs, or build something. In school I was a loner and didn’t have a whole lot of self confidence. I would eat lunch alone, or avoid the cafeteria all together. Pretty sad, huh?
Lucky I got through it, and in my teens and twenties I adopted an attitude of “fake it ’til you make it”. I put myself into scary situations (for me), and things did get easier. I learned how to be social enough to sell myself, give presentations, navigate a cocktail hour …. but there was always a disconnect. I didn’t have a real WHY guiding me. It was like, okay, I’m gonna do these things to make money, but at some point I’ll figure out what it is that I REALLY want. I thought for years it would be music – that I would write a hit song that would transform my life – but I wasn’t even in the right place in my head to make that happen if such a song did come about. I wasn’t even in the game. I was like a ping pong ball bouncing around a room, bumping into different people just long enough for them to know my name but not develop any real connection.
But, there has been a lot of good over the years. I eventually got married, had 3 kids – they are the most amazing thing in my life – and pursued the American Dream, starting (and keeping) my own business. But something happened in the summer of 2015 that gave me a completely new perspective and set me free.
I was listening to Howard Stern interview Jerry Seinfeld (Howard is an amazing interviewer). Or maybe he was interviewing Judd Apatow who wrote about Jerry, I can’t remember, but it was about how in the Seinfeld show writing room there’s a big framed picture of the universe. It’s one from the Hubble Space Telescope, where they sent it way out into space and turned it back towards Earth. Jerry said that when he would get stressed out trying to come up with material for the show, he would look up at this picture and it would put him at ease, and put things into perspective. In the grand scheme of things, nothing we do really matters all that much. We’re just a blip. A grain of sand.
When I got home, I found this picture online, printed it out, and over the next couple weeks I would just drift off staring at it. At first glance, it’s just a pretty picture of space – a bunch of stars. But as it sinks in, you realize that it’s really billions of stars, planets, and GALAXIES – and to give some context, it would take us 25,000 years traveling at light speed just to get to the nearest galaxy! And there are at least 100 billion galaxies! The universe is so vast, it’s hard to even comprehend.
Some might get depressed about this. “Oh, it’s so sad that we’re all alone out here, and may never find life on other planets. We’re so small, we don’t matter” But here’s my take on it – and what has become a major turning point in my life – HOW LUCKY ARE WE TO BE ALIVE ON THE PLANET EARTH.
What are the chances that everything came together, so that you and I can be having this experience on this beautiful planet, 25,000 light years away from the nearest galaxy, of over 100 billion galaxies, where seemingly we are the only living, thinking creatures in existence.
We’ve won the jackpot just by being born. And I’m squandering it, feeling inadequate and “lost”?
I look at this picture every single day. It reminds me to enjoy the experience I’m having right now in this moment, and not to get caught up in trying to empty my email inbox or tackle everything on my to-do list so I can get a gold star. In whatever time I have on this planet, I want to explore my own limits and to “create the things that I want to exist in the world” (thanks to Maria Popova – I love that quote). Now I’ve got an authentic mission.
I think back to the shy quiet kid I used to be, hiding from the world because I thought I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t belong. Now I see that I am, along with the rest of you Earth People, so very special just because I’m alive on this single planet, thousands of light years away from the nearest cluster of nothingness. And that’s pretty cool.