“You gotta leave yourself behind.” -Lady Gaga
The Roles We Settle In
There’s a lot about societal structures and cultural norms that make self-exploration and expansion a tricky task. Your upbringing determines your world view as a young person. Family dynamics, religion, politics, and social circles all play a part. Then, your own chosen friend groups, social obligations, and work relationships continue to inform your lens…and before long, you settle into a role, a space, a groove of adulthood.
Carnival Fun House
For those of us who have successfully made it to the other side of our twenties, we can look back on the treacherous landscape of that decade with some cringey feelings, some self-compassion, some relief, and even some amazement. Our twenties feel a bit like a carnival fun house. The floors are uneven, making the path ripe with opportunities to stumble. Reflections in the distorted mirrors show stretched out, disfigured versions of who we are trying to be. There’s a mixture of humor and terror around every corner.
Demolition Day, Every Day
In our early 30’s…it seems like it’s time to employ life’s architect and start designing a major remodel. Then, by mid-thirties, the contractor gets called in, and it’s demo day, every day baby. The transformation begins; walls get torn down, sleepy layers of solid material get resurrected, and new finishes are applied. Chipping away at the old and replenishing forgotten energies seems like a full time, unpaid position. The work is rewarding but also filled with delays, change orders, and headaches on tap.
When Things Start to Get Ahead of Us
My daughter’s friend mused this past weekend that she imagines the forties will be a decade where things “start to get ahead of you.” This made my dad, age 63, laugh and compliment her for the perceptive prediction. His assessment of his own experience rendered her hypothesis accurate, and it made me think about the slowing of my own body even now. While I have not yet crossed that threshold, the journey awaits my arrival.
A New Solution
So I guess this is what aging teaches us. Over and over again, we have to leave ourselves behind. Who we think we are, at any given moment, seems to be soaking in a new solution…changing the composition of what we think we are made of. There is so much we long to cling to, so many identifiers we feel entirely invested in, but at the end of the day, our soul calls for us to let go.
The cultures of our religions, families, careers, and structures within humanity are often threatened by our process of demolition and new construction. Fear strikes inside us when we are called to change course. It all signifies a loss of control, and that is the root of all resistance.
Nothing Worth Doing…
It seems a life well-lived is a never-ceasing quest that demands our acceptance of the only constant: change. Humans are inclined to seek the path of least resistance, hardly trusting their own resiliency and capacity for expansion. But in the words of Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, “it’s the hard that makes it great.” Often much to our chagrin, nothing worth doing ever comes easy.
I think we are all born with a flame burning inside us. Throughout life, the flame gets stoked by passions and blunders, growing ever brighter, hotter, and more intense. And, some of us get lost in the fire. Ah, but some…we are built from it.