Imagine there are four adult men in a restaurant conversing with one another over lunch. On the outside, the men all appear to be reasonably successful. Good looking, clean cut college graduates. They enjoy comfortable homes in nice neighborhoods, imported vehicles, status in their employment, and healthy families. However, the truth is that these men are failures. They are dying inside.
After the initial small talk is over, the men proceed to open up about how things really are. One of the men speaks up saying, “Well fellas…the truth is that I can’t bear my job. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to put up with being under the boss’ thumb like I am.” Another piped in replying, “I’d say…I’ve been two weeks on a new job and haven’t been more miserable. I’m not sure what to do.” All in attendance nod in consensus. They continue talking, topics varying from the recession to the subtle and perpetual loneliness of being grown men, genuinely dissatisfied with their lives. A few mention how trapped they feel…how they could never tell their wives or children the truth. They feel like they just need to get away.
Then the conversation steers in a different direction and the mood lightens. One of the men, a sales professional, talks about how if he could “give it all up” he would love to be a high school history teacher and spend summers at the family cabin. Another man, a real estate broker, speaks longingly of his long disregarded dream of owning a barbecue pit in town. He even mentions the locale and the men laugh agreeing how great it would be if it was a real place. The quieter of the four, a physician, grins as he explains his idea of selling his practice and moving back to his home town to coach the track team at the local community college, remembering the joy of running when he was a student there. The fourth, a mid-level manager at a small software company nearly breaks down in tears as he explains how all he wants is to still live in the town home he had just paid off, quit his job, and work in the fishing department at Cabela’s. But now he lives in a new house much too large for his needs (per his wife’s desire), paying an astronomical mortgage, and has no foreseeable opportunities for advancement at work. The mood again turns somber.
Before long the meal ends and the men go their separate ways, back to the lives they dread, distancing themselves further from what they really want. Time goes on, nothing changes, and this is how it has been for years ever since college. They are the failures.
But they didn’t used to be. Unbeknownst to these men at the time, they just got off on the wrong foot. It started when they were young, when everything was just an illusion. They weren’t true to themselves, and life, in turn, happened to them. Too often we hear that cliché: “Be true to yourself” – in all of its forms and fashions. But many people obviously don’t heed the wisdom it carries. My fear is that too many people are falling into the same trap. It seems these days more than ever before it is easier to compare yourself with and be influenced by everything around you. People are swayed from here to there by someone’s side comment, post, life plan, or review on Amazon. Whatever stage of life you currently find yourself in, try to envision yourself in the shoes of one of these men in the scenario previously described. The people of our world, especially the youth, need get a grip on the fact that life will drag them along mercilessly unless they take the reigns. And if they do not, inevitable misery and dissatisfaction await them. That is why you can’t wait.
The misery of living a counterfeit life is far worse than the despair experienced by trying what it is you love and failing at it. In other words, people often disregard their passions in life in lieu of stability, what’s on the table right then at that moment, or much worse…pressure from others. These are the people in similar situations as our friends sitting in the restaurant. The heartbreak they each feel for essentially wasting their lives on meaningless pursuits is devastating. But, as I think about how the conversation would go had each of them pursued what they described as their dreams, I can’t help but smile. So what if the barbecue pit goes out of business? Wouldn’t that make for a better story than “What if…”? The problem is that people don’t look that far down the line. An opportunity right now in order to “bridge the gap” or “pass the time” or “I’ll do this while I do that” most often turns into a dead-end portal to a mid-life crisis. I would be as bold as to say that the mid-life crisis concept could be avoided all together if people would think through the following: If we create a life worth living, what need would there be to escape it? That is why you can’t wait.
For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been!”
~ John Greenleaf Whittier
There is happiness and satisfaction in being true to yourself and pursuing a plan that makes sense to you, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. Whether you are laying the groundwork for your future, or have more days behind you than ahead of you, my message is that we each have a choice. We have a choice to change our lives. We are at liberty to correct our courses. We really can “give it all up” and be perfectly fine. Though the consequences be great, we should not confuse a consequence with an excuse. There is a part of each and every one of us sitting at that table with those men I described. Each of us has a life that we long for. The choice is ours. We can leave it be or take a shot. We can die dreaming or try living. Do it now or do it later, but later might never come. That is why you can’t wait.
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