You're 10 years old. Your year begins at the start of September because that's when you go to school. Your mom buys you new notebooks, and you put five freshly sharpened pencils in your backpack and take your Power Ranger lunchbox and go to the first day of school. The weather slowly gets colder, and you look forward to Christmas then New Year's. Winter is long, but eventually spring breaks through. You celebrate your birthday in April, and you're proud of the extra candle on the cake, though you don't feel older. As it gets warmer, you count the days until summer. Your older brother graduates from high school, and you assume you never will because that's forever away. Summer comes, and you rejoice. It's time for fishing and bare feet and popsicles and long, sunny days playing by the pool.
Then it's the same thing again. And again. Fall, winter, spring, summer. School, summer. School, summer. Another year older, another year past. Your parents get older, and you don't notice. You get taller, but you only know because of the marks your mom makes on the wall with a pencil every few months. You get smarter, but you only know that because you found the first term paper you wrote in fifth grade, and it was pretty unimpressive. Morning, afternoon, night. Awake, asleep. Fall, winter, spring, summer. School, summer. School, summer.
Then suddenly you have a college degree, a job, a significant other, a car, insurance, and a receding hairline. Your older brother has two kids, and your parents call you to ask you how to use an iPhone. You don't notice you're growing up until you do. You notice it one day while you're walking from the parking garage to work, and you look down and see a 6' 0" frame, a tailored suit, polished dress shoes, one hand holding a cup of coffee and the other clutching a brief case. Is this who you are now? Are you really so different from who you were then?
When we are young, life is a circle. School, summer. Morning, afternoon, night. Fall, winter, spring, summer. Sometimes life is punctuated by great loss—like a death in the family—or a significant change—like moving across the country. But your parents or guardians are there to create reality for you, and it's a safe reality. The seasons march on. School marches on. We march on.
But when you glance down and see the tailored suit, the briefcase, and the size 11 black shoes, it makes you wonder: did the world journey around the sun 25 times, and this is the result? Did my upbringing and my environment and the passing seasons bring me here today? What in the world am I doing?
When you were young, you felt like a track athlete running lap after lap becoming stronger, smarter, better, with each circle. You weren't sure where in the bleachers your coach is sitting, but you could sometimes hear him giving you instructions. One day the track disappeared, and your sneakers fell silently onto the forest floor as you passed through a group of pine trees; you'd become a cross country runner. You realized life isn't a circle, even if it looked that way before. It's a winding path through the woods that you often have to make up as you go along. You don't know what you'll have to run through or where the finish line is, but you have to be okay with that.
The seasons still come and go. Jobs come and go. People come and go. But you're still a runner. It seemed like track before, but it was always cross country. You can't stay the same, so make sure you become better. Your Coach is the only one who is always there and doesn't change. So wake up. Each day is a new life. Nothing happens twice. Each moment is unique. A second chance is merely a chance that resembles another one. Even if you get up the same time each day and celebrate the same holidays and go the same places, you are a cross country runner, not a track runner. The path isn't a circle. It's a journey. Listen to your Coach. March on.