I guess I need to channel my inner crotchety old man. Sometimes, I feel like I just want to sit on my front porch and yell “You kids get offa my lawn!” I don’t usually feel like an old crank, but sometimes it happens to the best of us.
Lately, I’ve been looking around at other folks who write things that seem similar to mine. Apparently, by blogging about authenticity and personal change, I fall into a category of bloggers that commonly refer to what they do as “Lifestyle Design.” Quite by accident, I also learned (the hard way) that some people who write similar things are rather offended by that phrase. No matter how hard you try, you never know how people will react.
What I have noticed after looking around at my peers is that I seem to be the oldest guy in the room. What’s up with that? Am I just a slow learner, and everyone else has this stuff figured out by their mid-forties? Have most people my age given up on searching for authenticity and fulfillment, and I’m out here all alone? Who knows.
To my crotchety-old-man eyes, bloggers in this area fall into two groups. The first are the ones you might expect to find, folks that have already done a good bit of living. They have seen their fortunes rise and fall, suffered the consequences of their choices, been kicked in the gut by life a few times, and lived to tell the tale. Those writers inspire others with their stories of lives lived in search of authenticity and fulfillment. I feel like they have something to teach me.
The other group was a surprise, and really brings out my crotchety old man. There seems to be an entire subset of bloggers that moved out their parent’s house, got scared to death by their first “real” job, decided to “go find themselves and live their dreams,” and ended up as global vagabonds for a year or two. They spend a year or so backpacking in a remote part of the world, sleeping in hostels or on couches, and then writing as an authority on being yourself, following your dreams, and changing the world. Their main message seems to be that fear is the only thing preventing you from living your dreams. Every concern you may have is just an excuse not to act.
I love dreaming; It’s what I do best. I also appreciate energy and optimism, but I really have a problem listening to a cheerleader half my age telling me how to follow my dreams when the biggest challenge in their life has was paying off their student loans. My crotchety-old-man wants to tell them to keep silent until they’ve been screwed over by a friend, dug themselves out of a mountain of debt, or spent some time in the hospital with a seriously ill child. I want to tell them to actually do some living before they tell the rest of us how to live.
But that’s not fair. I was young once, and I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of rebuke. I was once told that I hadn’t done enough real living to truly appreciate the television show Thirtysomething (I was still in college at the time). That comment really ticked me off, and stuck with me over the years. I felt at the time (and still do), that I had experienced enough “real life” up to that point to appreciate a show with “real life problems.” So what do I do with my cranky old man?
Perhaps the difference is between the discovery that comes with the first experience (“I just discovered Jethro Tull. He rocks, dude!”) and the appreciation of a discovery made over a lifetime (“Really? THEY were considered a classic before you were born.”). Sometimes, we forget that we were also young once.
We constantly redefine and reinvent ourselves over time. Our lives get deeper, and our commitments to others get stronger. What looks like desperation trapped by inertia to a younger viewer turns out to be careful planning with a long view of progress. Our decisions get made based on the way they will impact the commitments we have made in our lives. Yes, things may change more slowly and require more patience, but they still change. Slow and steady can still win the race.
We say “Act NOW! Get started TODAY!” and we all respond accordingly. The young person may quit their job and move to Tibet. The older person may start a savings plan to get out of debt and start putting money aside to move to Tibet in 3 years. Both people take action, but both actions look very different. Sadly, there’s nothing sexy about a savings account, but it still moves you closer to your dreams.
So, I have to remind my crotchety old self that it’s not a question of how much is enough “real life.” All lives belong to the ones who live them. It doesn’t matter if the action is big enough, but if the action is big enough for you. I’m not moving to Tibet, nor should you feel required to move to Tibet. However, all of us need to be making conscious steps forward, no matter how small. Not long ago, I had a tremendous change of attitude, not when I radically altered my life, but when I created a plan to radically alter my life.
The difference between a dream and a goal is a plan. What’s your plan?