I had an experience nearly 20 years ago that I have reflected on over the years again and again. Have you ever had a moment in life that’s almost bookmarked in your brain, something you revisit and consider during different stages of your life?

This moment in time happened when I was a very new mom. I was deep in the no sleeping, baby spit up in my hair, can’t remember the last time I showered, brain fog stage of parenting. I was very excited to get an invitation to an actual social event being hosted by a friend- a dinner party with other adults. This friend was an incredible hostess and I knew this invitation meant a wonderful meal and excellent company- things I was desperately craving.

The night of the event, I carefully prepared.  I worked to prepare my favorite salad recipe- the one with homemade croutons- and I had on real pants and makeup for the first time in weeks.  Just as I’d anticipated, the evening began wonderfully. I was deeply enjoying a delicious meal and lively conversation with other interesting guests. 

As we wrapped up eating, our hostess introduced an after dinner game that I’d never played before. Time has erased the memory of the name of this game- but the idea was that a topic was announced (ie “most likely to go to jail” or “classiest car driver”) and the group anonymously wrote on little slips of paper the party guest who came to mind with the prompt. 

The game started out enjoyably enough- I was voted most likely to get out of a speeding ticket by offering the officer a home baked goodie. Another guest was voted most likely to be asked for ID at 30. Our hostess read the next prompt and we all hurriedly scribbled and turned in our answers.

“Who are you most interested in seeing what their life looks like in ten years?”

When our hostess read the answers, people began to chuckle lightly. Everyone was getting one vote- it seemed most of the party guests had voted for themselves!  As she finished reading, I realized no one had voted for me. I remember my cheeks growing a little warm from embarrassment, but the game moved on quickly. 

I kept thinking about it, though. Something was really bothering me. Suddenly, the thought occurred to me- it wasn’t just that no other guest had voted for me—  I hadn’t even voted for myself! Somehow, every other guest immediately became curious about their own futures, and voted for themselves, but I hadn’t even thought to vote for myself.

What did that mean? 

It’s meant different things to me as I’ve looked at that seemingly silly party moment over the years. It’s meant that I needed to address within myself a tendency to focus on other’s needs and dreams at the expense of my own. At other times, it’s meant I needed to own my future and take accountability for the hopes I had for myself. But as I look on it now, it’s meant something new that I’ve come to recognize as incredibly important to understand.

A great life is cultivated. 

To cultivate is to prepare, to work on, to better the opportunity for growth and development. We have the ability to cultivate our own lives in ways that are personally meaningful and bring about excitement and hope for our future. 

What makes you excited to live your life? What makes you hopeful as you ponder the future? What could you be doing right now to add value and meaning to your life? What will bring you a sense of satisfaction and pride when you are 90 and looking back on the choices you are making now

We get to choose, bit by bit, ingredient by ingredient, what a meaningful life looks like to us.   While we don’t have control over all of the aspects of our lives, we do have an element of choice in how we approach and cultivate our lives. 

What are you doing in your life now to prepare, to work on, to better the opportunity for growth and development? What are you doing to cultivate your life?

I can look back today with a lot of compassion and grace for the new mom I was, exhausted and unsure she was doing anything right. I was truly lost in the whirlwind of new parenthood and it was hard to see much beyond what I was experiencing at that moment. I’ve learned so much about myself since then. One of my most cherished lessons is that I’ve learned how important it is to cultivate excitement for my own future and goals. Now, in moments where I feel bogged down by the mundane, overwhelmed by factors out of my control, or burdened with the humanness of life, I find myself asking, “What am I doing today that makes me excited for my tomorrows?  What am I doing today to cultivate my life?”

It’s an important question. 

And look out, world- when you get excited about your future, you take ownership of it in a new way and work hungrily towards making those dreams a reality. 

Remember: your dreams matter. You have a responsibility to yourself to own your future and live a life you are proud of.  And maybe most importantly: you are worthy of cultivating a life you are excited to live. So get to it! I’d love to know- what are you feeling inspired to cultivate?