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Pay Attention to That

November 2, 2011

That’s the advice my future mother-in-law gave to my partner over three years ago. “Pay attention to that,” was her blessing and her caution as her daughter sat broken before her wondering which path to choose. As my girlfriend catalogued all the pros and cons of her choices, her mother was brave enough to give this simple advice and let her daughter find the answer at the end of it.

It’s a similar nugget of wisdom to one I recently read:

Simply put, trust yourself. Pay attention to your instincts, your truth, your heart. “Pay attention to that” means going with your gut when it warns something isn’t quite right. “Pay attention to that” means dive head (and heart) first when you feel that click. The answer is always there if you start paying attention. You don’t need to make a formal list. You don’t need to bounce it off anyone. You don’t need to sleep on it. Just pay attention to what makes your mouth water, your heart race, you mind wander, your hands tingle, your eyes widen and your feet start running…toward or away.

What do you find yourself ranting about if given an audience? What makes your blood boil faster than anything else? What makes your heart melt into a big puddle of heartstring goo? That’s the only list you need. That is what you should take a chance on. Walk away from the luke warm and the “maybe it could work” and the “it’ll get better” because no matter if you’re a 5-year plan kind’ve gal or a take it as it comes kind’ve guy, time isn’t unlimited. Pay attention to what your eye skims over, but only long enough to note you didn’t care. Pay attention to what kind of links you click, what art makes you pause, which work task makes you proud, which time of day makes you feel most alive. Write it down, get it tattooed, start a dream board, tell a friend…do something so that you know you’re paying attention to that.

I’m not an optimist or an idealist. I know not everyone can make a living doing what they love. I know not everyone can live in France and drink espresso at a café with ex-pats, writing the memoir of their exotic travels and foreign lovers. I know not everyone can find the soul mate that loves them with comfort and excitement, whimsy and intellect, passion and compassion. But we can all get closer. We can all pay attention enough to make one change today that gets us closer to our own idea of perfection.

This is my heart right now. In May, I’ll be 10 years out of college. Ten years I don’t remember flying by. Ten years where I never paid enough attention. I’m going to make a list of what makes me happiest and what has hurt me most and in a decade I’ll see if it made a difference. I think it will. Even if I don’t get my yacht and I’m not a superhero and I still sometimes hurt the ones I love most, I think I can get closer to the good, to my very own idea of perfection.

I'm not sure I want to know that answer yet

What are you paying attention to?

-Nicole Collins

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