I like thinking about each person’s life like a plot of land. At birth, we’re given a certain amount of land of a certain terrain. Then it’s up to us to do what we want with it.
Before you build anything on your land, you need to explore it–to figure out what type of soil you have to work with, what defines the landscape. Even if it’s not optimal, you can cultivate the land.
Then, when you’re ready, you can build something. You can construct a humble abode, or you can make something tall enough to inspire those in the land surrounding you. You can even build something that will shed light on the surrounding land, helping others to explore the dark regions of their land that lie in the shadows.
Anne Lamott has some similar ideas:
Every single one of us at birth is given an emotional acre all our own. You get one, your awful Uncle Phil gets one, I get one, Tricia Nixon gets one, everyone gets one. And as long as you don’t hurt anyone, you really get to do with your acre as you please. You can plant fruit trees or flowers or alphabetized rows of vegetables, or nothing at all. If you want your acre to look like a giant garage sale, or an auto-wrecking yard, that’s what you get to do with it. There’s a fence around your acre, though, with a gate, and if people keep coming onto your land and sliming it or trying to get you to do what they thing is right, you get to ask them to leave. And they have to go, because this is your acre.