What’s my best advice for living?
Not a brilliantly sexy entry today.
In Canada over the past week there’s been tremendous outpouring of grief, support and compassion following the terrible, terrible accident in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. What may seem strange to some people is just how deep that accident affected our nation. In Canada, hockey is such a big part of our fabric. It’s just part of who we are.
And, frankly, mass deaths are just not part of our cultural reality either. To Canadians, it’s very shocking; even more so when it involves young lives taken way too soon.
Of course, as we move through the collective mourning, questions beyond the situation begin to arise in conversations and relationships. I think it’s a natural part of understanding death to recoil into yourself and examine how you’re pursuing your own life, your own dreams … your own legacy.
It’s a simple question. But I don’t believe it comes with any simple answers:
If you were dying and could only offer one piece of advice, what would it be?
You know, for me this question is almost a plague. I don’t mean that in a flippant way, but it’s something that, as I grow older, I find myself internalizing and struggling to answer to my own accord. It rests in a corner of my mind, challenging the decisions I made in my life so far, the impact of those decisions on my family, my relationship, and my own sense of worth. What advice can you leave that doesn’t get lost in a clichéd moment of “if it was only that simple.”
There’s a lot of reality to “pursue your dreams” and “live life by your own rules.” Very real obstacles will stand in your way – some, perhaps, insurmountable. There will be societal rules and, often, obligations. If you spend all that time pursuing a dream and it never comes to fruition, is your legacy that of someone who tried despite the odds, or (cynically) is your legacy that of a failure? These are real thoughts you must overcome and set a path for yourself.
When you’re young, you don’t consider some of this. Often you’re working to establish a life based on what society expects of you – a career, financial plan, car, family, house … a stable relationship where you know the other person’s last name. Our society also has a very dark and twisted way of dragging you into materialism and debt. It doesn’t take long before you’re wondering if vacation this summer is a week at a KOA, or if you work hard and save, can we spend a week somewhere tropical?
It’s so easily done – and so insidious – how your life gets into the routine where other people have greater control and influence on your decisions. In short time, you’ve not only mortgaged your house, but also your soul.
And then “boom” … something rattles your world, and you begin to reflect on where you are, what you’re doing – and why.
It’s easy to paint that as the stereotypical “midlife crisis”, but the truth is, it’s not something a Mercedes convertible or a trophy wife/husband is going to solve. Your path has been paved by someone else’s expectations of where they think you need to be. For so many people, this is what creates that feeling of being trapped – trapped by the inability to shed that life and challenge themselves.
One of the greatest quotes I’ve heard on this came from comedian (and Canadian) Jim Carrey. He said “so many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.”
That’s very true. Our habit is to create a safe zone and rarely venture from it.
For me, pushing those boundaries is a big part of my website and sexual experiences I’ve had in my marriage. When I first started down this path, the whole idea was about fulfilling a need for excitement, testing the waters of my sexuality and fantasies. Even now, 16 years later, there’s a frightening aspect to it that still weighs on me, but I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made. It’s a small way of pushing against complacency, despite the potential risks and consequences. It’s one less thing that, when my time comes, I can answer the “what if?”
It hasn’t been easy. There’s constant doubt, fear … worries about the impact pursuing a simply impulse might have in the long run. It can be very hard to overcome the societal mores; which is also what I think people fight against when trying to bring meaning and purpose to life – and not just from the sexual perspective like mine.
I’m at a stage right now of that self-reflection; a time in my life when I’ve come to consciously understand how precious and limited our time on this earth can be. I’ve started to wonder – almost plan – whether or not the best idea is to skip the “retirement savings” and live today and let the future be what it is.
I won’t call it a midlife crisis though, merely a process of taking stock and evaluating what my true desires are.
There are so many other adventures to be had, so many paths to forge … if there’s enough bravery and determination.
My advice: Embrace the adventure; make it yours not someone else’s.