Perhaps the biggest challenge in life is learning to live with limits. That is, not limiting yourself, but simply being able to accept that there are limits intrinsic to living a finite life within an environment of infinite complexity and unlimited possibilities.
Over the past few months, I’ve been knee-deep in preparation for my school’s annual musical. I go to Denver School of the Arts, and I can tell you, they take their musicals seriously. I had a fairly significant role in this year’s show, and it ate up most of my August and all of my September until now. But that time wasn’t spent without its rewards – I had the chance to work with and get to know a whole lot of really fantastic people many of whom I probably wouldn’t have ever met otherwise, I got to put myself out there and entertain six fun and appreciative audiences of a few hundred people each whose lives were hopefully improved by what my peers and I had to offer, and I was able to share so many meaningful, beautiful, and thrilling moments with all of the people involved. Yet, I wanted to do so much more.
I have a wonderfully sweet and caring younger brother, an awesome friend who’s committed to working with me to create the best software out there, a vegetable garden that demands constant nurturing to be the pleasant fruit-bearing sanctuary I seek from it, a constant desire to have the most organized and zen-like room and computer workspace of any teenage boy ever, and of course my own passion for programming and creating which can only be quenched by doing. I came home from the last performance of The Pajama Game, our musical, to a brother wishing I had more time to spend with him, a friend disappointed that I couldn’t have come with him to a gathering of fellow programmers that took place just last week here in our own home town of Denver, a garden littered with fallen fruits and wilted leaves, a room full of random stacks and piles of things I haven’t had time to deal with, and a sad sense of disconnection and distance from the projects I’ve always longed to finish.
Part of me is upset to see how all of these things have suffered from my participation in the musical, but the other part of me is assured that without those losses, the musical couldn’t have been nearly as meaningful an experience as it was. The energy I usually put into my garden, my projects, and so on wasn’t lost, it was simply used elsewhere.
And that is what I mean by learning to live with limits. I could take on an unlimited number of commitments in and out of school, related and not related to programming, singing, gardening, or a whole host of other things that interest me, but without my full attention none of them would be very meaningful at all. And yet, the world has no limits. There is no limit to what you can do, only to how much you can do. That’s not to say that you can’t milk out every last drop of passion and energy you have in you to live the most significant and world-changing life ever lived, it’s just to say that you’ve got to pick which plants you’ll tend to while the others wilt.