I read an article this week about how we can ruin our lives by tolerating them. And it really got me thinking as I reflected on the many ways that I have tolerated my own life over the years…
Because when I was 18 years old, I withdrew from the college that I really wanted to go to because I was homesick and I could tolerate moving back home to enroll in the local university.
When I was 19, I dated a girl far longer than I should have because I could tolerate being with her even though she was wrong for me.
When I was 20, I tolerated working overnight shifts as a DJ at a radio station because I didn’t think I would ever be good enough to be heard by listeners during the daytime.
When I was 22, I tolerated college, graduating with a degree I didn’t really want just because it meant I could be done with school quicker than if I changed my major to business and started over.
When I was 24, I took a job at a call center making $24,000 a year because I could tolerate taking a bad job with irate callers yelling at me because it would pay the bills ‘for a little while.’
When I was 26, I was still in that ‘just for a little while’ job because I could tolerate 8 hours of discomfort when five o’clock was always just a few more hours away.
When we tolerate what life throws at us, we settle for less than what we’re capable of. I think a lot of us think that if life would just stop being so hard, things could get better. But life will always be hard. We will always have to tolerate life. The truth is, we can decide to change and tolerate the discomfort that comes along with that change. That’s not easy. It takes courage. And it takes a different mindset. If you’ve found yourself settling, there’s good news — you can decide to stop tolerating what life throws at you and start tolerating what you change to create an even better life.
Because at 27, I went back to church and met my wife when I decided that if I could tolerate being outside of my comfort zone, good things might happen.
And at 28 I married my wife and just celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary (because she could tolerate me, I suppose).
And at 29 I got promoted into a better job because I could tolerate putting myself through grueling interviews even though I knew there would be lots of rejections during the process.
And at 30 and 34 we had Kyle and Noah because I could tolerate giving up my wants and needs for two little boys so we could have a family.
And at 31 I went back to my alma mater to get that business degree because I could tolerate two more years of school if getting an MBA might create more career opportunities at work.
And at 33 I landed a better job at another company because I could tolerate the discomfort of leaving a job that was familiar and safe, something I think too many of us are unwilling to do.
And at 36, I started writing books because I could tolerate waking up at five in the morning when the world was still fast asleep if that would give me time to explore what I felt might be my calling.
And at 38, I’m still writing because I’ve learned that if I can tolerate the tough times all writers experience, I can create something that is beautiful and maybe stir the hearts of those who read it.
Life has a way of self-correcting. That undergraduate degree that I wasn’t proud of is what pushed me to get an advanced degree that now hangs on my office wall. That relationship in my twenties pushed me to marry the right person for me. And that job I so dreaded going into every day pushed me along the path to figuring out what I really love doing and might just be my life’s work.
I’ve realized that we all have to tolerate something in life. But that doesn’t mean that we have to settle for what life throws at us. It’s never too late to change. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.