So, my sister, one of our closest friends and I decide to go out dancing in South Tampa. Yes, yes, I know, we elected to go dancing in the young, singles’ district. Yes, we walked into the trap willing and with full knowledge that the average age would be roughly 25.
In our twenties, idealism and hubris rule. We don’t yet know what we don’t know. It’s a magical time when we believe we can do anything, and God help those that try to stop us. We’re still allowed to fail, even miserably. The rest of the world, especially that demographic that has survived that pivotal decade, looks at us sympathetically, perhaps even blithely, and recognizes that life hasn’t yet kicked us in the collective ass.
Our thirties bring on a significantly less idealistic view of our world. The shiny hubris that gave us that unfounded, but entertaining “I can change the world” attitude begins to dull when you realize that it takes a village to raise a barn. You begin to understand that team effort is far more effective than all the idealism in the world. And then secretly, when you’re not looking, your tribes begin to form around you.
If you’re lucky enough to make it into your forties healthy, devoid of the ailments that catch us no matter how fast we run, you finally see a glimmer of self-awareness.
It becomes easier to admit when we’re wrong and that we have limitations. We start to own those limits, helping us discern which endeavors truly deserve our best efforts. It certainly doesn’t mean we actually achieve those best efforts, but the field narrows in our favor.
I was 48 before I realized that I’d forced myself into a box that was designed for someone else. A box that left no room for the creative person I feel that I am. I didn’t know what I needed to do for myself until then, and this realization was the result of some painful soul-searching.
Man’s struggle to survive is a distant memory for most of us in the western world. We find ourselves whining and complaining about “first world” problems as though individually, we are the only victims of the crisis du jour. We whine about triggers instead of empowering ourselves to transcend our experiences. We want the world to change around us instead of developing the fortitude to adapt and solve the problems that plague us.
The best part of facing fifty, for me, is figuring out that we are amazing, adaptable creatures capable of much more than life may or may not have handed us. It has caused me to shed limits I thought I had and do FINALLY what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I don’t have to wait for someone else’s approval or encouragement. If I can give you twenty-something’s any advice, it is to start that process earlier. Realize that people with more experience ARE smarter than you are and most earned respect before your tiny lungs took their first breath. Pay attention. The younger you figure it all out, the longer you’ll have to live it. And living it is the best revenge to anything life hurls at you.
‘Tis true what the say, youth IS wasted on the young. In my twenties, I could intellectualize that concept, but I can actually feel it, now. Physically, I’m in very good health, without the “especially for” caveat I’m compelled to add. I’m simply healthy, for any age. I don’t lament my lost ‘youth,’ though; I lament the time I spent searching for confidence. Over the years, people-watching has shed a constellation of light on the kinds of things that give people confidence. For example, it seems obvious to me that an athlete, whose identity has been shaped by his success in sports, will have much of his confidence entangled in that sport. My husband played professional baseball. Within the confines of the baseball park, I know no one that is his rival in knowledge of and understanding of the game. He’ll tell you without hesitation what the next play will be and he’s right every time.
I was going to make this a later post, but I decided to move it up the list after a series of posts I’ve read recently on Facebook.
I LOVE my country. That’s right. Despite all its problems, I LOVE my country. Perhaps that’s not a popular thing to say these days. In fact, I’m beginning to feel that many people are ashamed to say it. That’s unfortunate for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I am FREE to say it.
As a female, I have even MORE reason to love my country. I can pick up my keys, get in my car, and drive to wherever the hell I want and do whatever I want to do. I can read what I want to, watch what I want on television, and say what I want to say. It’s not about whether or not that gives me license to behave badly, but it gives me the power to choose and that is an amazing thing when compared to how women live in other countries.
I am also free to choose whatever profession I want. I am compelled by some hidden force in my brain to create, frequently, constantly. I cannot make it stop. And thanks to my freedoms, I don’t have to go to a job every day that I hate. There was a time when I was in the wrong profession for me, but that was the result of uninformed choices, not because I was forced into it.
So, I appreciate the American Way. I love my freedom. I love the men and women that give me that freedom and I’m getting a little weary of hearing people complain and provide no solutions. I think as citizens of this country, it is incumbent upon us to recognize a problem and communicate it. But it is also our collective responsibility to solve it. We are innovators. We are the country based on the dream that all men are created equal and we have the power to move beyond the bounds experienced by our fathers, and make it better for our children. Focus on what is positive about our great nation. Ferret out solutions, and employ them.