As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?
The death of a celebrity is a time when the world gathers to talk about how someone lived, and how that person’s existence changed their lives in some way. It’s a time of mourning, but can also become a time of self-reflection.
In 2014, as the men’s World Cup was coming to a close I thought about how the next one would be in four years. I’ll be 40 when that happens. 40. 4-freakin-0. So many thoughts have been running through my head since then:
Where did the time go? What have I been doing with my life? Why am I still “figuring it out?” How is our 20 year high school reunion is just around the corner?
But if there is anything you cannot dodge, it is the passing time. So what do you do? You may have read about how I found a book that inspired me to quit my day job and pursue photography. I did indeed do that. And I was successful in achieving my first goal of showing work at a coffee shop in the 8-week course period. It’s been encouraging. I’m lined up to show work in Feb, June, and July!
However, it has not always been smooth sailing. I have been managing a constant level of anxiety for years now, and it rears its ugly head in times of transition and daring. On great days, the existence of it is barely there. On bad days, my body can shut down to the point where I can’t leave the house and don’t know why. And when that happens, the squirrels in my head start running around and judging me. They ask similar questions to the ones above, but with awful, shaming tones. Read them again like it’s a bully yelling at you, and change instances of “I” to “you”:
Where did your time go? What have you been doing with your life? Why are you still “figuring it out?” Your 20-year high school reunion is just around the corner! Yeah. It sucks.
One night the self-shaming tone that lodged into my head was “You’re getting old.” I had been told I was getting old when I was 21-22 and living in Hong Kong (different standards). Back then, I could ignore them. It was easier to see that my life was ahead of me. I had years before I needed to “figure it out” and “find myself.” At my current age it is difficult to make that statement without a hint of heavy-handed cynicism.
I am not a spring chicken. My 20s are gone, and my 30s are nearly behind me. When someone tells me I’m getting old, it is very easy to just nod and agree and accept that my knees periodically do not want to do what they used to (like flex without pain). I’ve never seen one’s 40s as a person’s prime (MANY have proven different). As I pursue a career to sell my photography, it is very easy for me to see myself as having showed up really late in the game. I worry about how I appear in gatherings when the sea of people around me are in their 20s. They are vibrant, endearing, and have a childlike curiosity others just eat up. And let’s not forget that they probably look super hip and fashionable. I recognize that there are overly-eager ones who visibly can’t keep their cool, but my brain can only see how everyone else is probably better than me at everything. They are more in-the-know, are well connected, have been invited to fabulous parties, and have a higher alcohol tolerance (getting older really sucks in this department).
But therein lies the danger of accepting the generalization that once you reach a certain age there isn’t much reason to try so hard. The scary state of mind when you start to believe that what you do is aesthetically pleasing at best, and bland and uninspiring at worst. With a little more thought, you’d think that it makes more sense to haul ass and get your life going given you might have less time than others. Then there is the thought that age really is just a number and a state of mind. I believe that we were born into this world with pure joy. And even though that joy took a bruising throughout the years, as long as you’re breathing there is still time to nurture it and bring it out to shine again and again.
Now, I know that I have to acknowledge setbacks, physical and emotional. But I want to use the awareness I worked so hard to harness and exercise, and turn toward my challenges, and change the messages that are coming at me to ones of courage, love, patience, hope, and faith. I can be whoever I want, whenever I want. I can’t slow down time, so I need to think about how I can take advantage of what I can do with what time I’ve got left.
Not convinced success can’t be achieved after 40? Check out Richard Feloni’s post in Business Insider UK titled 24 People Who Became Highly Successful After Age 40.
Do you have ideas you want to manifest into awesomeness but don’t know how to start? Here’s the 8 Weeks to Badass DIY coaching program I mentioned earlier by Jen Sincero.
Others who charge my mental energy. No Surprises here.
Brene Brown – Renowned researcher story teller who opened my eyes to the power of vulnerability and shame.
Elizabeth Gilbert – Who didn’t read Eat Pray Love? Her TED talk on creativity was a way to shift how I looked at creativity as something that wouldn’t kill me.
Debbie Lacy – I’m still getting to know her work, but think Lunch Challenge: What do you want?, a short talk she gave at TEDx Olympia was insightful.