“Someday” Is Only Right Now
Sometimes when I see what other people are building — small businesses, startups, websites, housing developments, whiskey brands, etc. — I think to myself, “huh, I could maybe do that someday.”
(And, sure. Whatever — maybe I could. Or maybe I also very well couldn’t. Either way, that’s not the point of this post.)
The point is: I’m in my 30s. And I haven’t.
We all do this. We put huge blocks of our lives into “someday.” And sure, some of it belongs there — “someday” we’ll be older, and “someday” college students will have jobs, and maybe “someday” we’ll get married and/or have kids and shit. Those things don’t need to be rushed (until, of course, they need to be rushed — but that’s a different post.)
But sometimes we talk about “someday” regarding things that could just as easily be “today.”
And eventually we start to realize that the sliver of “someday” actually gets smaller; our window to do it gets slimmer, the box of “excuses” and handwritten “IOUs” we have tucked away in our mental closet becoming increasingly less likely to pay us out.
And eventually you round that turn and start to see there’s a home stretch; you’re staring down the barrel and there’s an end to “forever,” and if you haven’t done it by now, by god, you may never do it.
This isn’t meant to be depressing.
On the contrary: it’s meant to light a light in your life; to take something from imaginary to real; to bring it forth in your own life and make it yours.
Because. It. Is.
In the words of “Richard from Texas” from Eat, Pray, Love:
“You know, if you could, ugh, clear out all that space in your mind that you’re using to obsess over this… you’d have a vacuum with a doorway. And you know what the universe would do with that doorway? BOO— rush in!”
Creativity Love Constraints
And “just doing it” loves it, too.
I’ve been in software for most of my career, and some of the most brilliant and best builders — developers, engineers, mechanics, crafters and doers — I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with love working with constraints.
You’d think that they would jump at the opportunity to “build whatever you want,” but in reality a lot of them have day jobs in part (and in addition to many other benefits, I’m sure!) so that someone else can give them a good constraint.
As Marissa Mayer famously said over ten years ago,
“Creativity loves constraint… this sounds really counterintuitive, because when you think about creativity, you think about… having a lot of freedom to do whatever you want… a lot of times when you constrain your thoughts, that’s when you ultimately see a lot of innovation happen.”
Constraints can be defined in a lot of ways — good ones are defined in part as high-level pain points (problems to solve.)
And the three most popular constraints are: cost, quality and time.
The one that’s most real, of those three, and applies to absolutely everyone on earth, regardless of resources, is time.
Use time. Make it a constraint.
And if nothing else, take advantage of the constraint time presses upon you as it passes.
May you be so fortunate to not “someday”
May you realize “someday” is never.
May you be so fortunate to stop living in a phantom time frame.
May you stop your servitude to “forever.”
There is no “someday.”
“Someday” is only right the fuck now. And because I know that’s confusing —it leaves a lot of us grabbing for another mint in the bowl, like,
“What the hell are you talking about?! There literally is a tomorrow!”
But the problem isn’t that there won’t be a literal tomorrow — I know there will be; that’s not the problem. The problem is, in fact, that there will be.
And the problem is that we don’t mean the literal tomorrow; we mean a fuzzy, ambiguous one, a “forever” tomorrow that doesn’t exist. And yeah, we’re gonna have a slew of “tomorrows,” but someday our “somedays” will run out. The problem is our mindset — our flippant regard of our lives; our casual compartmentalization of them into far-off, future places that don’t exist.
Here’s a “someday,” in a way, of my own: I don’t play the lottery, but when asked what I would do with the money if I won, I always answer,
“Nothing. Well, actually I’d retire my parents.”
And, asynchronously: when I ask my parents what retirement would take, or what the biggest headache in their lives is, they both have the same answer:
They have to pay off their mortgage.
Make someday right the fuck now
I paid off my student loans in March of this year. I spent one month enjoying my full salary — for the first time in my professional life — and then? I called up my mom.
I almost never call my mom.
We made some idle chit chat — my boyfriend; their dogs — and then, because I knew she knew something was up, I said,
“Look, obviously I called for a reason, so I’ll just cut to the chase: I want to pay off your mortgage.”
(Actually, that’s a lie. I didn’t come right out with it. I romanced her a little with a long and winding lead-up. Something like, “I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I want you to know that I’m very sure, and feel very strongly about it. And I thought about just doing it and not telling you, but I figured I could make this easier on myself and just let you know. So we can do it the easy way, or the hard way…. blah blah”)
I also said, “you and Dad gave so much for us growing up, and it causes me physical and real anguish that you guys still have to work as hard as you do. If you still want to work for you, that’s fine. But I want to at least take this out of the equation.”
My parents are in their 60s, and they both work for hourly wages — and at odd hours, sometimes getting up in the early morning hours or going to sleep in early morning hours, shuffling shifts around with colleagues to pay their bills.
These work habits were a lot easier for me to brush off ten years ago. My parents were younger and, more importantly, I was younger. But it’s not as cute to me anymore. Especially when my dad went into odd-hour wage work after being laid off from the corporate salaried job he’d held for almost 40 years. (The New Great American Story, I know.) That, my dear, was not cute at all. (And I don’t hold very many grudges against people life — life is too short (see: this is entire post) — but when the CEO of his previous company laid off people en masse just a few weeks before Christmas, I wanted nothing more than for him and his family to have their holidays ruined, too.)
Anyway. My parents are very dear to me.
My mom’s first response was the same thing everyone would respond with: “you should buy yourself a house!”
And to her I said the following:
(1) At $600 a month in rent, I’m not “paying” much by not owning.
(2) I have a 401k, investments, and savings.
(1) I don’t want a house. Especially right now.
(2) Given that, the minuscule joy I’d get from buying one for myself doesn’t even hold a candle to the joy I’d get from paying for theirs
(3) As such: losing a few years opportunity cost is a drop in the bucket. Watching them do this for another few years seems unbearable.
Money means nothing if we don’t use it for something. And that “something” should be in line with what we value.
At the end of it all, in the grand scheme of the universe, I am 100% certain this is worth my “bad investment.” It’s my money and I can do with it what I want. Maybe that sounds flippant, but it’s not. That’s what money is. It’s us who bundles it up and makes it about stupid, idealist, “someday” shit. This is what I want, and this is what I’ll want 50 years from now. I’m an adult ass woman and I am sure.
In other words: you could say I’m doing it for them, but really I’m doing it for me.
I don’t want to live in “someday” with this. I don’t want them to go another day, week, month or year slaving like they have. I want to live right the fuck now. This isn’t the same as throwing caution to the wind and not investing in my future, because it’s important to reiterate that I’m doing that too. I’m saying that, at the end of it all, this amount of money, which I can only spend while they’re still alive (and so can only spend before I retire) is worth the “hit” on my own retirement account.
Because “someday” isn’t the time to play out your values. And once you have some security for the future, it’s important to understand what you want most, and spend your most valuable resources — time, money — accordingly.
There is only “now.”