Leading up to my 30th birthday, I caught myself apologizing quite a bit for some of the emerging shifts in attitude I was experiencing. The misnomer, “It’s the age,” was frequently on my conscience, and honestly I started to freak out a little bit about where I was and where I had anticipated being by the time I’d reached my third decade on this planet. Was I really going to bow to societal pressures, settle down and pretend that I had all my crap figured out? Was I even capable of this?
I felt the mounting stressors that came with each milestone of age. I’d finished my formal education, I was in a long-term relationship, and I’d accumulated enough experiences to say I had both a world-view and a strong belief system about “what is what”. I had made sense of my purpose, and had positioned myself just right to gain some level of fulfillment from it all.
Then began the doubts: “Is this it?” started to find its way into my routine and thoughts. Routine had always been an evil word to me (I equated it with couples who planned their evenings around the TV Guide), and yet here I was unintentionally in the midst of one—one of my own making—but still a daily grind that I’d become accustomed to.
To fly by the seat of my pants, was no longer. I had commitments, regular employment, and a writing regimen that consumed my time. My relationship was convenient at most, and provided ample time to work on ourselves as artists and individuals. I thought this was what I had always wanted, by avoiding what everyone else had—marriage, babies, the works. “Fiercely independent,” was my middle name. I didn’t want the responsibility of making someone else happy, and chose to be selfish instead.
As I find this year winding down, I've noticed that I am in a very different place than where I was at the beginning of the year. And what I have decided to believe, as I look for understanding, is that we spend so much time during our growth, accumulating. Whether it is through experiences or stuff, ranks or recognition—we want proof that our lives mean something. We do it in our own ways, and it is what we think we must do.
What I now want is simplicity. To get back to something genuine and real and not so caught up in reason. If it feels good, it’s probably good. If it makes you hesitate or analyze or dwell in some negative space, get the hell out! Though easier said than done, I am making efforts to align myself with the things that make me feel most alive: Art, love, passion, nature. Being truthful, knowledgeable, traveled. Being part of a community. Being a friend. Being healthy.
There is no monetary value that can be associated with any one of these focuses (I wouldn’t dare call them “things”), and the side effects are immediate and lasting. Just yesterday, I spent the better part of the afternoon digging up and stacking rocks around a farm to begin the process of a winter irrigation system. And by the end of the day, my boots were caked in mud and manure and I was chilled to the bone from the damp and dropping temperatures. But I was still smiling, as I watched the evening silhouettes of two men hammering fences with their backs to a brilliant western sky.
Then when I woke this morning, my muscles were sore and my sinuses congested, and yet I couldn't stop smiling. And I'm pretty sure this isn't a coincidence. But I will keep you posted with any future developments.