They say life begins at 40. I’m not sure who “they” are but I’m slowly starting to realize how right they are. A decade ago I thought that this phrase was all hogwash, after all, my life seemed pretty OK even then.
With the typical clarity that hindsight brings, I can now see how naive I was back then. And no doubt, a decade from now I will be even more clued in than I feel at the moment.
You see, that’s the interesting thing about life. It teaches you something new every day, month, year, decade…..you get the idea. There’s a catch though. You need to be open minded enough to catch the lesson lest you completely miss the plot.
Which might just explain why some people appear to have never outgrown a certain (read adolescent) stage in their lives.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there is a trend to how we behave in life. Typically, most people tend to have a relatively carefree existence through their teens and into their early twenties. This may or may not apply to you, but in my case I basically lived my life without apologies during this period. Most of my choices were largely self-centered and based on what would benefit me most.
Then around the time I started working, I began to feel the society’s stereotype pressures in my life. As more of my friends settled down and started families, I began to feel my choices shift away from me and towards what was “expected” of me.
In retrospect, I could have fought the pull of this shift but I actually allowed it to happen, blindly believing that I didn’t have a choice in the matter.
What followed was a decade of trying to conform and fit myself into an imaginary checklist of milestones that I convinced myself would lead to happiness and fulfillment. You know the list right? Get a great paying job that you love, meet and marry the partner of your dreams, have a toothpaste ad family, buy a house, buy a car, etc. etc.
Everywhere I looked, people were living seemingly fabulous lives and I had no intention of being left behind. What I distinctly remember about this part of life was the amount of comparison we all subjected ourselves to. It was brutal.
Despite my best efforts, most of the things on this list appeared determined to evade me and kept slipping out of my grasp. Eventually in a state of frustration a few years ago, I began to question the meaning of everything around me, wondering if there was a point to it all.
Meanwhile, the much yearned for happiness and fulfillment remained nothing more than a mirage in life’s desert; beckoning my thirsty soul forward with no intention of quenching it.
Having nothing to lose at this point, I embarked on a self-discovery journey which became a seemingly never ending rabbit hole. What I uncovered was rather unsettling.
In my quest to fit into society’s expectations, I had created various masks and personas and I found myself floundering to identify the real me. I remember being very acquiescent to those around me at the time, while wallowing in confusion and self pity.
The whole situation reminded me of Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride. For those who never watched it, the story line centers on a rather confused young lady who leaves several suitors at the altar. (And, no, that’s not the similarity here – I didn’t leave anyone at the altar lol).
In the movie, the young lady played by Roberts was like a sponge or chameleon to the point where she didn’t know how she liked her eggs. Her preference was dependent on whichever man was risking his charms with her at any particular time.
This stage was terrifying to say the least – trying to figure out the real me. And societal pressure wasn’t done with me so I kept see sawing between self-awareness and self-doubt. For some reason though, I just wouldn’t quit and eventually the lessons began to form a clear picture.
Actually it was one main lesson.
The older I got, the less I cared what people thought. The less I cared what people thought, the more clearly I could see who I really was. The more clarity I gained, the less it mattered to me what other people thought. (See what I did there?)
This is a story that I want to share. I don’t know how many posts it will take but then again one of the things I have discovered is sometimes you just need to enjoy the ride. So stay here with me and hopefully some of my lessons may resonate with you.
I would also love to hear about your experiences in this crazy journey called Life so drop me a comment and let’s swap stories.
See you on the next post!