One afternoon while on a long run, I got to thinking. This was during the long months of unemployment following college, so naturally, my thoughts wandered into the familiar realm of bewildered self-discovery. I found myself quietly constructing a “What I Should Have Done with the First 23 Years of my Life” list. It went a little something like this: study English…real English, the classics. Write. Had a little more, or a little less, fun—serious work pays off just as much as being a free spirit does. Majored in psychology—I would have written the best books on “self.” Volunteered—read to the elderly, or the young. Became a chef, or a food critic, or a wine connoisseur. Read the lyrics of “Better People” by Xavier Rudd for a more poetic rendition of all this.
…but I guess there’s still time. And it isn’t until just now that I have even the slightest clue of what I wanted all along. Life is funny like that. The majority of us don’t figure out who we really are (or at least want to be) until we’re too old to make it happen. Or too pessimistic to try. The world teaches us that most dreams are impossible. Perhaps, the reason for living is to prove the world wrong. It often seems we live right-side up in a world of upside-downs.
Whenever these kinds of thoughts start swirling around in my head, I call my grammar school best friend who now lives in Sydney, Australia with her boyfriend, a full-time lifeguard and star of a hit reality TV series. She always was a bit of a free spirit, often dragging me into the muddy stream to “save the minnows” or conducting séances in her basement to speak to the Indian ghosts she believed her house was built over.
“Life is taking you too seriously,” she told me. At first, I thought she had been sipping a few too many Fosters, but just before I could correct her, she explained herself. “Over there in America, you all have a formula to follow. If you don’t graduate from college, get a desk job, land a husband, and start a family, society tells you you’re doing something wrong. But, if you ask me, that equation is missing a hell of a lot.”
“I guess so,” I managed.
“Sure, all of those things are great…and if there is anyone that is meant to be a mom, it’s you. But where is the fun? What ever happened to exploring, traveling, doing something crazy—something worth writing a book about?”
And so I'm taking her advice. We need to take life seriously--go after our dreams, follow our heart--without letting life take us too seriously. Make sense?