Why I’m Not On The Train

I remember exactly where I was when I was awakened to the fact that I’m capable. Sounds weird, and maybe even a little crazy. I suspect that if you have had a similar experience you’d remember it too. I was in Costa Rica on a street corner. Two groups of people I was in charge of were at different locations in the town I was in and all needed to end up at the same location, but we only had access to one van to transport them. They wouldn’t all fit at one time, so like one of those brain teaser puzzles with the different sized colored disks you have to shuffle around on the 3 wooden pegs to get them sorted by color and size, I give crisp, clear instructions to the person asking me how we were going to actually pull this off. His look of shock, relief, and confidence told me everything I need to know about his new found calm in the midst of this storm. I had done it. He came to me with a dilemma and no answer and I handed him the answer that completely addressed the dilemma. I think I remember that exchange so well because if I’m being completely honest, I was even a little shocked myself in that moment. But I recall thinking “I can do more than I thought I could do.”

Run, don’t walk to your nearest reputable tattoo shop and hand them a piece of paper with that line on it: “I can do more than I thought I could do.” Whatever style tattoo and placement is up to you. Except the “tramp stamp”. I forbid that to be on anyone’s lower back. Me? I’d go old school script on the forearm. But if you’re new school then go for it. Just make sure you see the tattoo artist’s work before hopping on their table. Because…well…you know… you don’t want any “regerts”.

I’m sitting in a bakery/coffee shop on a Thursday morning as I type this. It’s one I’ve been to many times and I always love the vibe. It’s kind of a gem of a place that is somehow thriving though I hardly ever see many people here. One of the things I love is the full open kitchen behind the counter; In the absence of any walls, I can see bakers kneading the dough of whatever sweet treat they’re baking next. I see racks and racks of fresh baked bread. And the smell in here…well…its heaven.

I can’t help but wonder if those bakers are living that baking life because they love to bake. Are they invested in the process that takes a bag of flour and turns it into edible music because this is the dream they’ve had all along? Do bakers think that way? Are they knuckle keep in dough back there just thanking God for the chance to live their dream? I’d like to think so, but hey. I don’t honestly know.

I had a thought this morning that caught me by surprise. I shouldn’t say that in that way because I should be in more control of my thoughts. If you read my post yesterday, you know I can make some pretty stern demands of my thoughts. But this one honestly crept up on me as I was getting ready for the day.

I’ll first ask you a question. Are you doing what you want to do? While I absolutely hope so, I fully understand that the answer might be “No.” or maybe even “Not even close.”. You might even be one of many who would use the word “hate” when they think about what they do for a living. I want to be eyes wide open here because I don’t want you to think I’m some hair-gelled, teeth-whitened, sham-wowwed, multi-level-marketing sleezeball. Nope. I’m not pulling anybody in with some well-baited hook while hoping and betting you’ll nibble. Not at all. I’m just a guy who’s living his life and thinking about stuff while he does. Thus the name of this website, btw. *That’s how the kids say “by the way”, btw.

So when I think about my life and where it is now, I have to confess to you that at the age of 48, I’m well into the “back 9”. Shout out to my ever-golfing Dad. And when you get to be 48 or at least when you get to be 48 and are someone who thinks like me, you have long since reckoned yourself on an empty train platform watching what was disappear into the distance, aboard the train that has already left the station.

Let me get super real and specific. Some of the things I’ve wanted to do for a long time but haven’t–the things I imagine are onboard that departed train–are things like: getting my Masters degree, writing at least one book that a stranger would pay for and read, learning to play the drums, learning guitar, starting a demolition business, serving as a university chaplain, starting and sustaining a speaking career, and going on a cruise with my wife to wherever she wants to go.

And with a somewhat forlorn look in my eye, I’ve pictured myself on that train platform, watching the chug-chug-chug of that locomotive of “wanted to’s” become more and more faint in the distance. Quietly I stand on that platform with my thoughts of what I haven’t done. And won’t. Because I can’t.

But then….

Just this morning as I was again imagining that sad scene, a hand slapped me. Not physically, but it might as well have been. The open palm of “Stop wallowing, you baby!” delivered quite a wallop across the face of my “what could’ve been” psyche. Does anyone say “wallop” anymore? I’ve tried to bring back “Oh, snap!” for years and I think its just dead and gone. Rest in peace, “Oh, snap!” You’ll be missed.

Okay, so back to the slap. It occurred to me like a lightning bolt occurs to a tree that I had the imagery all wrong. ALL wrong. I’m not standing on some train platform somewhere in the land of my unrisked opportunities. I’m not some sad sack who has nothing left to do but mark time and lament over what might have been. No, I’m not at that empty train station on that quiet platform.

I. AM. THE. TRAIN.

What a difference that truth makes for me. I have so wrongly thought that I was the one who missed the train, never even realizing that there are no victims in my story. I’m the fully-stocked, strongly-steamed locomotive that’s bound for wherever the next destination is! And that destination is determined by the tracks that I choose to lay.

There are so many outplays of this mindset shift. I’m actually overwhelmed to think about what possibly could be next for me, the train, as I begin to pull away from the station. Full steam ahead.

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