Gather no moss….
It’s a simple enough concept, this idea of “settling down”. It’s what we humans do, is it not? When we come into this world, all brand spankin’ new, pink and chubby, and all seemingly bearing a remarkable resemblance to Winston Churchill, we are the products of our parent’s path into settling down, raising a family, and becoming one with their communities. (Is it just me or do you hear the first faint strings of Kumbaya in the distance?) And from that moment on, our lives seem to forever revolve around this effort to stay on course, to belong, to settle in, to find ourselves in the comfort of co-existing peacefully and, often, uneventfully, with our fellow man, or woman, or decline to state-er. And the cat. Or the dog, for those of you less fortunate.
First, there is the need to conform, to be accepted really, in our earliest days in school. As far back as our elementary school days, but certainly by middle school, we are driven by our inner need to blend in. Only those with the dashing good looks so early on, or with the unmatched athletic talent, dare to stand out and be noticed. But putting aside these idols of our youth (most of whom turn out to be lackluster adults, have you noticed?), we spend our school days vying for the “most likely to never be noticed” award because frankly, the alternative is terrifying. Please don’t call on me, am I right?
In high school, we learn to perfect this art of being at one with the masses. We are grouped according to our social status (the popular kids), our intellect (the nerds), our musical abilities (band geeks), or our affection for natural herbal remedies (really, you know you are). If we’re lucky, we sail smoothly through the venerated halls of learning relatively unscathed save for the curse that defies all sense of social order and group lines – puberty! But that’s for another blog on another day….
Off we go to college!! The sheer number of groups available to provide us with an overwhelming sense of belonging is astounding. First, there’s your chosen field of study. You can join the proud, austere and hallowed tradition of any number of sororities or fraternities. Not for you? How about an academic club? Sports? Chess club? Chinese club? Procrastinator’s anonymous maybe? There is, I’m assured, even a club for people who don’t like clubs. Honestly, if you can’t find a place to belong in college, you are not EVEN trying.
Graduation pushes us through another door of acceptance into careers, some of which actually have something to do with those chosen fields of study. Here we find our first real version of family. Spending more hours together, toiling away, than we’d ever care to spend with our biological families, some of us will even blur the lines a bit and find our mates in this new place of belonging and acceptance and, for those chosen few, love (Cue it up, Johann!). And, next thing you know, there you have it, back to those babies again!
But here’s the thing. After you’ve done your part to provide fresh stock to keep this process going, where do you go next? You’ve done your job. You’ve raised them and sent them off on their own to keep the cycle of life and belonging going. Ok, so we can tack on the mantle of grandparent, but really, that’s not even our own doing is it! I mean, while we still have careers, of course, we still have a place, an identity. But what becomes of us when that career is no longer the center of our lives? To what do we belong? Sure, we can find hobbies, or start a bridge club (that’s a card game right?), take up golf (honestly, why are women’s golf clothes so damn hideous?), or volunteer at the local animal shelter. For the more desperate, there’s the second career! Seriously, I think that’s just giving UP. It’s going backward in the evolution of getting old. Who do you think you’re kidding??
But in all seriousness, where do we fit in? We are here, but we are no longer the vital pulse of the universe. Are we pre-destined to rise at 5am, sit alone in our kitchens sipping our morning coffee, wondering where all those years went, and when, oh when, our blessed offspring might decide to grace us with a little phone call, or, dare we hope for it, an actual visit? Are we meant to put up all those adorable photos of the grandchildren we rarely see and to pine away for time we may never get with them? Is this the icing on the cake of a life spent loving, supporting and giving all of oneself to their offspring? Sign me up… not!
Look, I love my kids. A lot. But that is not the life I want, for myself, for my friends, and for you, my new friends in blogland! Let’s not fade to black. Let’s decide, here and now, on this very day, that we will carve a new path for ourselves. We will not sit idly by, forgotten. Let’s be brave. Let’s do something completely unexpected, and, yes, FUN! Refuse to be set on the curb! Oh, I can see your mental wheels turning out there. I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, sounds great, but, uh, how exactly do we do that? I’m so glad you asked.
Step one…stop making decisions and plans around those kids of yours. Yes, we love them. Yes, we want to spend time with them. But honestly, they have been the top priority in our lives since the day those little buggers were born. Enough! It’s their time now. And if they’ve got little buggers of their own, those little guys are their top priority, not us. So let it go people! It’s ME time! Adjust!
Step two…..dream big. The world is your playground. Nothing is off limits. Don’t know what you like? Start experimenting! Ever tried kickboxing? How about ballroom dancing? On second thought, no, how about hip hop? Like to volunteer? How about building schools in Ghana? Have unspoken dreams of playing the violin? Sign up for those lessons! (I did! And let me tell you, the pets in my house so did not enjoy it.) Long to travel? One large backpack, a plane ticket to anywhere in Europe, and a global train pass, and daily adventure is your life.
Step three….execute. It’s easy to sit on the couch and dream. It’s quite another to DO IT. But do it you must. Come on. What do you have to lose? The world awaits you! Life awaits you! And trust me, it’s only hard the first time! Taking back our lives, making ourselves the priority, deciding we deserve to have fun, to be people in our own right, this is how we create our own sense of belonging, not to our past lives but to ourselves. Gather no moss. Be alive. Go ahead, I give you permission.