Our generation is told that we can be anything we want to be! A very mundane experience recently reminded me that this isn’t true.

There was something I wanted on the top shelf in a store. I couldn’t reach it no matter how hard I tried or how much I stretched and I was forced to search the store to find someone who could. This is not such an infrequent occurrence (note to store owners; think of your short customers!) and I have accommodated myself to the reality of my situation.

It is not such big deal but it does make the point – there are some things I could not be, like a women’s basketball player. I’m also pretty close to tone deaf which has precluded me from becoming a great musician, despite hours of practice. I don’t have the gift of abstract thought necessary for physicists, mathematicians and philosophers. The list goes on and on… but enough about me!

We all have limitations. And that’s okay. When Ethics of Our Fathers enjoins us to be happy with our lot, it means more than our material possessions. It means all the circumstances of our lives and includes our particular strengths and weaknesses, talents and lack thereof. Even our limitations. Because this is the way we were created and these are the opportunities in front of us.

It’s important to recognize our limitations professionally. If we have a serious issue with our eyes, we prefer to visit an ophthalmologist instead of a general practitioner. If we have a serious psychological issue, we prefer someone with a degree and experience and not just a good friend. Likewise if we are in a position of counseling others, it’s important to know when to refer out – to the people with special expertise in the field.

We have grown up thinking that limitations are bad because they are…well…limiting. Limitations are neither bad nor good; they are just an expression of reality, a reality that we need to accept and embrace. And once we recognize our limitations and are at peace with them, then we really know the parameters within which we can truly grow and flourish. That is a tremendous gift.

We may spend our lives struggling to be something or someone we are incapable of being. We may spend our lives unhappy that we haven’t achieved certain completely unrealistic goals. Or we can be happy with who we are and work with the strengths and abilities we actually have as opposed to the ones we wish we did.

We can be miserable that we weren’t the visionary who created a business or organization or just enjoy being the one who is able to turn that vision into a concrete reality. We can be unhappy that we aren’t the life of the party or enjoy the meaningful conversations we have with the few people standing near us. We can wish we were the fun mom always making up games and projects for our kids or we can focus on the security and stability and time that our children are getting from us.

There are so many things we could wish for. We could live in a constant state of dissatisfaction. Or we could try to abide by the words in Ethics of Our Fathers and accept who we are. If the Almighty had wanted me to be tall, he would have made me that way. If he wanted me to sing or dance on Broadway (just a little fantasy of mine), He would have given me those skills and those breaks. So I guess He wanted me just the way I am.

I am not talking about character flaws (I’ll spare you the list) that we can (and must!) work on and eliminate; I’m speaking of the boundaries of what we can accomplish given the abilities and skills we do have and ones we don’t.

It’s initially disappointing to realize you can’t be anything you want to be but it’s ultimately freeing. And it’s an ultimately gift. Yet another reason to say thank you to the Creator.