Sunday, February 8, 2009

Every Little Step I Take

I’ve always been very mobile. A man of few possessions, I like the freedom of being able to pack up the car and be on my way at a moment’s notice.

That’s why my recent purchase of an IKEA dresser was such a huge commitment – and not just because it took me four-and-a-half hours to assemble. This was furniture…something that real adults buy, something they pass onto their kids. Up to this point, the only potential family heirloom I had was a worn pair of Old Navy jeans.

You’d think that by 31 I’d have accumulated more to give to my unborn grandchildren.

No, I’m not your typical thirty-something. Having monkey-barred between jobs at the bottom of the totem pole, my salary would make a school teacher blush – and I just got a raise. On family trips, I’m still treated like the “little kid,” relegated to sleeping on the foldout couch in my parents’ hotel room.

Forget love and romance…I think the biggest advantage to getting married would be sleeping in an actual bed.

I don’t know what it’s like to “feel” your age, but when I look at my contemporaries, I see people who, at the very least, appear to be living age-appropriate lives. They’re married or in serious relationships. They’ve climbed the corporate ladder or started their own company. They’re evaluating potential residences by the quality of school districts.

Because I’m not even close to dealing with this type of stuff, I oftentimes feel disconnected from my surroundings, like I’m watching a DVD of what life is supposed to be, each scene showing a different decade of growth.

Oh, I see…so this is what you do in your thirties.

I’m okay that my current reality doesn’t match up with society’s timeline. We each have a unique pace that needs to be respected, and I have a certain pride in taking my own path.

Still, when I look at my life through a wide-angle lens, the picture I see is somewhat troubling. Blessed with more gifts than a Jewish bride’s registry, I worry that I’m not fulfilling my potential. I have so much I want to accomplish – like going on Oprah, where I can be the focal point of millions of women – and I can feel the time slipping away.

I put forth so much effort into the everyday necessities – going to work to pay the bills, doing sit-ups to stave off a gut – I often lack the energy needed to apply towards my bigger goals. Sedated by the comfort of routine, it’s sometimes easier to just sit on the couch, watch The OC and postpone my aspirations for another day.

My biggest fear is that I’ll wake up when I’m 50 in the exact same spot, not having done anything at all. New age teachings, such as Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now,” explain just how destructive this thought process can be. According to Tolle, the only thing that is real is right now, and that’s where our focus should be. The past and future are just creations of our mind, and worrying about them is a waste of time.

And when you think about it, this makes perfect sense…all we ever have is the present moment. I mean, have you ever experienced something that didn’t happen in the “now”? Of course you haven’t…it’s impossible.

So instead of being haunted by regrets or taunted by what-ifs, my attention lately has been on being thankful for and appreciative of everything in my life right now.

But this has been a bit of a double-edged sword. While I’m stopping to smell the occasional rose, I fear I’m losing sight of my long-term goals. The fact is that I’m not getting everything out of life that I want, and being a Pollyanna, acting like everything is great is keeping me stagnant. I have to be honest with myself, or my “now” will never change.

I’ve realized there’s value in keeping an eye on the future. Making progress is dependent upon having a vision of what we want – it’s our road map. Staying hungry…keeping an edge…these things ward off complacency and keep us moving forward.

But most importantly, they allow us to be intentional, so that we use the “now” in the best way possible.

Because in the end, as my brother-the-rabbi taught me, the point of life isn’t to work towards some far-off place where we can finally be happy…it’s to actually take the journey itself. Putting one foot in front of the other – this is where true happiness and accomplishment reside. And every stop we make, every challenge we face serves as an opportunity to continue along our path.

We just have to make a commitment to take the first step…even if that’s nothing more than a simple trip to IKEA.

1 comment:

  1. Great article, but hate to tell you, that IKEA dresser will be lucky to last you through your 30s... forget about your children or grandchildren inheriting it. :-)


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"It's not a lie, if you believe it." Those were the words of one of my generation's great sages, George Costanza, and the more of life I experience, the truer they ring. And while I still haven't found what I'm looking for, the search for my own personal "truths" is never-ending. Care to come along for the ride?