Right Here, Right Now: Are You Where You Want to Be, Doing What You Want to Do?

Is she a) doing exactly what she wants to do at this moment or b) looking for a lost Lego contact lens?

Is she a) doing exactly what she wants to do at this moment or b) looking for a lost Lego contact lens?

So, are you? Feel free to skip right down and just tell me your answer in the comments, but here’s why I’m asking.

I just re-drafted a piece out of the first chapter of my book—the one that I hope will help any parent who reads it find a way towards a more satisfying, fulfilling and happy family life. In it, I’m asking readers to consider where they stand—what makes them happy, where they find trouble spots, what’s going on in their daily lives. And I’m asking them to consider this very moment:

Right now, as you begin to read this chapter, are you where you want to be, doing something you want to do?

I’d argue that the answer should nearly always be yes. Even when where we are isn’t ideal—rocking a stroller full of sleeping baby with your foot at the pediatrician’s office, in the parking lot waiting for a child to emerge from an after-school robotics club, commuting home from a job that’s too far away and dragging on our spirit—for most of us, where we are and what we’re doing at any given moment is the direct result of our own decisions.  We decided to be the kind of parent who takes a baby for regular check-ups, permitted the child to join the robotics club, trained for and got the job that’s momentarily or consistently disappointing. 

So if you hesitated a bit to respond with a ringing endorsement of that question—are you where you want to be, doing something you want to do—that’s a red flag, both about wherever you are and about the process that got you there. (Unless you’re in the hospital recovering from an accident or illness, in which case, you’ll just need to think about this section as it applies to the rest of your life, noting in passing that while you didn’t necessarily want this hospital bed, it’s probably preferable to the alternative.)

Before I go any further, I want to talk a little about the word “want” as I use it here. I considered other verbs—“choose,” for example, “need”, or even “meant to be.” I went with “want” because I think it forces you into really looking at where you are and why. All of the other options have a passive quality—you can pawn off being where you choose to be, or need to be, or are meant to be, as the result of duty or circumstance or the peripheral requirements of another choice.  “Choose” in particular is problematic. We make choices for a lot of reasons: to please other people, or live up to imaginary ideals and standards. Because we we feel pressure, or guilt, or confusion. Because the force of inertia is strong, because sometimes it’s easier to say yes than no, because we didn’t really think it all the way through. When we say “choose” there’s too much room to let ourselves off the hook for our feelings about the results of our decisions.

“Want” demands that you really consider the whole of it—the choices, the emotions, the alternatives—and it also invites you to embrace the result.  Sometimes “want” leads us to a tropical vacation, but for the most part, it isn’t all unicorns pooping out rainbows. No one would say they “want” to sit with an beloved relative in hospice—but it’s the illness we don’t want, and the hospice, and the probable future. Given those unchangeable elements, that hospice is exactly where most of us want to be.

So if the question gives you pause—now, or at any moment during your day— it’s time to think about the choices that got you to wherever you are. 


Writing this got me wondering—how many of us, at any moment in the day, DO feel like we are where we want to be, doing what we want to do? So that’s my question to you, right now. Right now, as you read this, are you where you chose to be doing what you chose to do? (Disclosure–I might quote answers, using initials only, in the book.) And if not, why not?


5 Responses to “Right Here, Right Now: Are You Where You Want to Be, Doing What You Want to Do?”

  1. I believe I am almost where I want to be, doing what I want to be doing! After being a full time mom of three daughters with a fledgli g writing career, I am now able to focus on my writing, and my memoir in particular, as much as I desire. At 50 years old, I would like to be on my second or third book, but what can I say? I am a late bloomer in this regard. Onward I go.

  2. Helen Wolter says:

    Right now I am not where I want to be due to the cost of housing in the Bay Area. The cost of housing makes me work more than I would like, so I don’t get to spend as much time as I would like with my son. And no, I can’t move elsewhere due to custody…. I guess that goes back to my choice of a husband, which is why choosing one’s partner is key.

    That said, I have a roof over my head, plenty of food, we are healthy, and my child is in a good school, so I feel like I should be saying I am lucky…

  3. Yes, I am somewhere I want to be, doing something I want to be doing….. however that does not mean that I wanted the circumstances that got me here. A prolonged illness in my 40’s deteriorated a 23 year marriage that I had cherrished more than anything else, I lost my health and vigor, my partner, my home, and my way of life. It left me lost, and empty. I did not choose to become ill, nor did I choose to have my husband leave me. I did choose to leave my home as I could not take care of it on my own. I spent 3 years lost in the fog of unknowing, but somewhere in the midst of those three years of pain I choose to begin to listen to an inner compass that slowly pointed the way to a new life. Part of finding myself now in a place where I can easily say I am where I want to be and doing what I want to do was letting go of what I thought I should be doing, letting go of things I wanted that were not available to me. I may never have the stamina again to run a marathon, I may never have a partner to live with, I most certianly will not have the partner I so wanted. But in giving up what I thought I coudn’t live without, I was able to find a new path,a new life, and new way to share my love. I am living a very different life now, doing things I never thought of before, and dispite
    those things that happened in my life that were not my choice, I did choose not to give up on myself and was able to redirect and reinvent my life. Is if perfect????? I suppose not,,,, am I happy??? yes, partly becasue I no longer look at what I do not have, but can focus and revel in what I do.

  4. Yes. But, I paused for a second. So, maybe this is not a Yes-No question? Is life this black and white? I love my husband. I love my kids. I have friends I adore. I love my job (most of the time). I love my home and neighborhood. But, I’m tired. I’ve been tired since I had my kids over 10 years ago. That’s a decade of tired. We talk about balancing and all that all the time. And, I do it — I balance, God darn it! But, if I want to get enough sleep, I fall behind at work. If I want to take time for this sort of reflection, I’m not replying to a student or colleague’s email. If I want to exercise almost every day, I don’t have time to make the beds. I want to check everything off my “to do list” and go to bed at 10pm. I have a rare day when I feel like this happens. I feel satisfied; pleasantly tired. Not anxious that I’m forgetting something. And, it’s wonderful. I want more of those days.

  5. Right now, I’m exactly where I want to be. I didn’t come to this place lightly or easily, and there are times I feel incredibly guilty about it. For years, I put the needs of my family first–my husband needed to focus on building his career and I needed to care for our young children. Inevitably, my husband settled into his work and the kids got older. I started to reevaluate what I’d been doing. I thought about where I wanted to be professionally, personally, and in terms of where I wanted to live. Then one of our kids got sick. Really sick. Once again, what I wanted for myself didn’t seem important. I needed (and wanted) to be with my family. Now, we are crawling out from years of hospital stays and treatment, and we’re transitioning to a new place. Literally. I accepted a job about four hours away from my husband’s. We’re getting our house ready to put on the market, and we’re moving our home base so that we can both have fulfilling careers and raise our family. I hate that I’m splitting us up for part of the week. But I need to be honest with myself. I want a career as well as a family.