It was 10pm on a Saturday night. We sat at a coffee table in a little lodge in the middle of the Olympic rainforest. The glow of the fire lit the room as we sipped on red wine and worked to fit a 1000 piece puzzle together.
It was a picture of a cottage in the middle of a field, surrounded by trees and wildflowers with mountains in the background. The ultimate Pacific Northwest puzzle. We began by building the outside frame (because everyone knows only amateurs start from the middle, duh). As she started putting pieces together, I sifted through the box with a furrowed brow. Before even half of the edges were done I said, “We’re missing pieces.” She kept building. I spent the next forty minutes going through the box, sifting piece by piece, convinced that there weren’t enough pieces to build the edges. Piece by piece, she kept building.
I don’t know if there were actually any pieces missing. We never ended up finishing the puzzle, but as I sat and watched her working to fit the pieces together, I realized something. I think the way that I approached that puzzle in the rainforest is a lot like the way I approach life sometimes. Instead of working with what I have and building piece by piece until I have created something big and whole and beautiful, I spend my time fighting and claiming that there are pieces missing. Important pieces. Pieces that are preventing me from being able to plant my happiness stake firm in the ground.
And I don’t think I’m the only one.
We are a generation of people who believe that we are missing pieces. We are a waiting generation. We are waiting for a spouse. For a dream job. For a better platform. For more followers. For graduation. For the next thing…the best thing. We have fallen into the trap of believing that what we have now isn’t enough.
The truth is, the idea of the “best” thing that we have constructed in our minds is a big fat lie. We don’t need to add something new to our lives in order to be happy. What we have is what we need. The best thing isn’t a thing, it’s a mindset.
I laid in the grass in the middle of a park with a friend the other day and listened as she told me about her plans to live life the way she wanted once she was done with school. She was going to travel and find a job she really loved and start making time for the experiences she really cared about. As I laid there, staring at the clouds above us, I felt sad for her. Sad that she believed she needed to wait two more years to start enjoying the world…as if being finished with school was some magic missing piece that was going to make her world of gray turn vibrant and colorful all of a sudden. My heart felt unsettled as she spoke. She didn’t need to wait to be happy. She wasn’t missing anything.
I’ll never forget what my most favorite human and wisest friend told me about a year ago when I was in the middle of a rut. I didn’t feel like I was growing creatively. I felt stuck and uninspired and caged in. I didn’t love my living arrangements or my major at school or the way I was spending my time. I was run down and exhausted all of the time. I remember calling her in tears, telling her about how much I didn’t like the life I was living. How I just wanted to be finished with school, working a big girl job, spending my time going out with friends and being a fun twenty-something.
“You know, you don’t have to be unhappy right now. You have power over your joy right now. You don’t need to be in the next stage of life to like your life. It’s about finding what you’re passionate about and pursuing that. Build a life you love and then live that life. Now.”
Live a life that you love. It’s simple, but I think that string of syllables is powerful and it holds an abundance of truth. We were created as individuals with unique passions and desires and gifts. Our only job in this life is to pursue those inherent gifts with passion and determination. And if we are doing that one job well, then there won’t be any missing pieces because we will be doing what we have been created to do. We overcomplicate it when we start to believe otherwise.
As cliché as it is, I think the whole “The grass is green where you water it” saying holds true. Water your damn grass and find joy in it. You don’t need anything other than what you have to start loving the life that you’re living.
I think Haley had it right when she kept working on that puzzle as I looked for missing pieces. Let’s not overcomplicate it. Joy is right here and now if we choose it. Contentedness is here. Satisfaction is now. Put your head down, follow your passion, and live a life that you love. There are no missing pieces.