What About the Stages of My Life?
Growing up, I always heard that all aspects of life progressed in stages. Yes. I watched myself physically develop from childhood to teenager to adulthood. There were things that made no sense to me as a teenager that now make perfect sense as a grown individual. But those levels of development are not what I am referring to. I am referring to those ambiguous categories of societal thought and expectations that are so designed to place and keep us into neat little boxes. Be enrolled in college by 18! Have a career by the early 20s! Get engaged, be married, have kids and a house before 30! Be fully settled in life by the 40s! Have everything figured out as adult! And the list goes on and on ad nauseam Not to mention, the behavioral expectations. Dress 'appropriately' for one's age! Conform to the thought and behavioral patterns of one's family, religion, community - no questions asked! Leave fun, adventure and self-discovery to the 'so-called' wild, immature and uncommitted and act like a grown adult.'
But my life has never fit into any one those neatly wrapped boxes. It used to bother me deeply that no matter how hard I tried to even think about fitting in, how miserable it would all appear and make me feel. Adventure is life to me. It is not a stage. Positively impactful change is oxygen for me. It is not a stage. Learning, unlearning, and relearning keep me mentally fresh. It is not a stage. Questioning beliefs, challenging opinions, exploring new thought patterns is a way of life for me. It is not a stage. Spending my life as a single man is liberating and authentic to who I am. It is not a stage. Those are things that I can control, things that make me feel empowered.
So when life throws curve-balls in my path and disrupts even the organic flow I so need and depend on, what happens to me? Surely, unexpected unemployment, financial loss, sickness, losing a loved one, the end of a once meaningful relationship, a vanished once in a lifetime opportunity can, each or all, potentially set me back emotionally, financially, mentally and physically. Situations can upset the equilibrium I thought I had. Things can and do go wrong at any age. Does it mean that I have failed simply for experiencing all that life has in store - good or bad? NO! What do I do then? I keep breathing. I earnestly seek to understand the lesson, learn from it and keep it moving. Admittedly, it is not easy by a long shot but truly worth all my efforts. It is about the experience(s) of the journey to me. In my world, no stage has been compromised because there is none. I have yet to experience life on a constantly forward trajectory. Sometimes I am at a standstill. Sometimes I take a few/many steps forward then a few/many backwards. Sometimes I am up, other times I am down. I have NOT failed. But I have learning and I am growing. Truth be told, I HAVE learned that life is its own school, class, teacher, subject material, counselor, advisor, and president. I graduate only when it is done with me.
So, I offer no challenge or criticism to those who feel comfortable in their neat little boxes or experience their life through an understanding and acceptance of stages. Success is personal. It is what is to you and to me. But my challenge is for those of us with restive minds - those of us who are restless, those of us who feel disconnected to the everyday grind and the pervasive thought machinery. You CAN start a business at at the age of 12, 30, or 60. You CAN choose to be happy as a single/married/partnered person in your 20s (or whenever). You CAN go to school and complete a degree at 70. You CAN travel the world at 40 - backpack, learn new languages, experience new cultures. You CAN reinvent yourself after a divorce/separation at 50. You can start over after a brutal set-back.
In other words, the choice is ours to live authentically and free at any age. To hell with stages (if this is how you feel). You are free as yourself and that's all that matters. YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR HAPPINESS WHENEVER YOU CHOOSE. So what will it be?