Carve Out Your Life

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The reason I have not been posting this week on is that my mom and aunt have been in town visiting me. We had a great time together, and it was nice getting a dose of family. Plus, I had not seen my Aunt Cindy in over three years, and she had never seen my apartment or life here in Kansas, so it was fun getting to show her everything I have managed to accomplish. They cooked all of my favorite foods (I think I gained five pounds), and we had a wonderful time catching up on each other’s lives. Best of all, we carried out my favorite Halloween ritual, carving pumpkins. When I was growing up, the free candy and costumes were fun, but the part of the holiday I really cared about was carving the pumpkins. It was was really cool to get to relive this family tradition from my childhood with my mother and aunt here. In thinking about pumpkin carving and such, I was reminded of an important life lesson that they can teach you.

Scott Drotar Carving Pumpkins
While my mom and aunt were in town, we got to enjoy my favorite part of Halloween, carving pumpkins.

If you have ever carved pumpkins before, then you are well aware of what a precise and delicate process it is. First, you have to go out and hunt for the perfect pumpkin. Armed only with the image in your mind of what this finished work of art will look like, you have to painstakingly search through hundreds of pumpkins looking for that perfect one. Everything from stem, to size, to color and shape have to be just right for your Halloween masterpiece. Once you find the chosen gourd, it is time to open it up and pull out the guts. You have to be sure to thoroughly clean it out to make sure that the candle inside will be stable. Now that your pumpkin is empty, it is time to start carving. After going over your design in your head one last time, you take a deep breath and slide the knife into the orange rind. Everything is going wonderfully, it is turning out exactly like you had imagined. You are like Michelangelo working on “David,” as you cut with the precision of a brain surgeon. Then, just as you are nearing the end of your greatest work of vegetable art, you see it.

As you are getting ready to make the final set of cuts, you realize that you have made a single wrong line. Your heart sinks, and you start searching frantically for the undo button, but unfortunately this is not a Microsoft Windows pumpkin. This solitary mistake prevents you from finishing your perfect design, because if you make the necessary final cuts the whole pumpkin will crumble. Your masterpiece is ruined, and there is no way to fix it. You are stuck with the cuts you have already made, so you have to find a way to make them work. Your original design is out the window, but you do manage to salvage your pumpkin into the typical, boring, run of the mill face like everyone else. Every time you walk by your ruined work of art, you are reminded of your mistake, and how permanent its consequences were. You think about how stupid it is to put so much time and effort into an endeavor where you are stuck with any choice you make.

While pumpkins are stuck with a single face and are unable to make changes after a cut has been made, people are quite different. From the moment we are born we begin growing and changing into the person we want to be, and this process continues for our entire life. I have already written about how change is the only constant in life, and how this personal growth is going to happen whether you like it or not. An important aspect of this fact of life that many people fail to recognize is that by having the ability to change, that means we can turn ourselves into whoever we want to be. By embracing this process of transformation, you can control how you change and who you become. This gives you the power to be whoever you want to be and live whatever life you can dream up. Unfortunately however, this incredible gift of growth is something that many people do not take advantage of.

Scott Drotar Jack-O-Lantern
Thankfully, this year my vegetable art turned out wonderfully, because unlike your life, pumpkins are stuck with every mistake.

Just as with pumpkin carving, there are going to be times in your life when you make a mistake that ruins your plans. While the pumpkin is stuck with its faux pas forever, you are not. You have the ability to change and become anyone you want. So often people make some bad decisions or experience a series of bad luck, and they change into a person they never wanted to be. Worse yet, they feel like they are doomed to being stuck this way forever. What they fail to realize or remember though is that just as their past choices turned them into who they are now, their future choices have the ability to change them into someone else. They may have to face the consequences of their actions, but they can also work to change the results of their decisions moving forward. They forget that they have the power to mold their life and who they are in any way they desire. You are not stuck being the consequences of one set of choices, good or bad. You are an ever-changing accumulation of all of the choices and actions you have made throughout your life.

I don’t know many things with 100% certainty, but one thing I do know for sure is that I will be a different person 24 hours from now. It may not be in any major, life-altering way, but as a result of my interactions with the world around me throughout the day, when I wake up tomorrow I will be different from who I was when I opened my eyes today. Since you are going to change anyway, you may as well embrace it and take advantage of your transformative ability to become whoever you want to be. Think about this valuable gift for growth as you are enjoying all of the jack-o-lanterns over the next few weeks. Remember how lucky you are to be able to change, while these pumpkins are doomed to living with every wrong cut forever. Think about who you want to be and make decisions to help you change this way. Dream up the happy, successful life you want and deserve, and then start carving out your life to create your masterpiece.

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