Monday, November 12, 2012

The long road home

I've always wondered at what point do you find yourself satisfied with what you've done with your life.  It's something I've been ruminating on lately, perhaps due to my approaching 40 or the struggles my mom has faced recently.   Either way, I've spent a lot of time thinking about it.  Today I stumbled upon a show on the Golf Channel called "Our Longest Drive".  Without going into too much of a tangent it's basically the story of 3 older gentlemen who take the ashes of their deceased golf buddy on a cross country trip in an RV to play a final round of golf in the Arctic Circle on the Summer Solstice.  It's a good story, a feel good kind of thing.  It's touching to see that kind of friendship drive (get it?) those guys to do that.  It's an awesome legacy to leave....which is what started this whole inspiration to write again.

I've spent a great deal of my life chasing the dreams of other people.  Well maybe not so much the dreams of other people, but more so the approval.  I've always felt like lots of the decisions I've made along the way, and consequences of those decisions, were always looked down upon by many of the people that mattered most in my life.  I passed up on college and entered the workforce.  I packed up and moved across the country, twice.  I followed my heart and ignored the red flags that were thrown up along the way.  I knew that at some point, I would finally "succeed" and prove everyone wrong.  I was living my life to get to that magical place where I could finally get the approval I had been chasing all my life by doing the exact opposite of what everyone thought I should.  Pretty backwards, huh?  Along the way I laid a long trail of "someday I'm going to" and "when I get older I'm going to" stories.  It got the point sometimes that I even looked back on some of the things I said and was disappointed that I did NOTHING to bring them to any kind of fruition.    Basically, I felt very much like what I thought a lot of people had felt because of me for quite some time.  Something happened recently that changed all of that.

I was visiting with my mom recently.  I took the afternoon off from work, drove the hourish up to my parents' house and sat with my mom for a couple of hours.  I mentioned to her that I was trying to do some family research and find her childhood home down in Detroit.  She proceeded to bust out this big folder full of stuff that she had from when her parents passed away.  There was so much stuff in there that it prompted all kinds of conversation about what she had set out to do with her life, what her parents had intended to do with theirs and how it all changed when my grandfather's brother was killed in WWII.  Then she said something to me that I had been chasing for years and years. She told me that she considered me successful.  That after all I had been through and all the rough roads I traveled out of "rebellion" (her words, not mine), that since I could pay my bills, put food on my table, etc that she finally considered me to be successful in life.  Guess what?  For as much as I had been waiting for so long to hear those words, it sucked.  It sucked because I didn't feel the same yet.  I felt like I had made so many poor choices in my life, said so many things, built myself up to be something...more, that what she considered success was anything but for me.  I spent so many years chasing someone else's approval that I fully forgot along the way what was most important...the only approval that really mattered was my own.

So here I am now, going on soon to be 38.  Tomorrow is a big day for me.  I register for my first college class in 20 years.  20 years.  There are so many things that I feel that I've started and left unfinished, so many chapters started but words left unwritten that I need to cross some of them off my list.  I've arrived where I'm at in life not by a carefully laid out plan, or by the grace of choices made with a destination in mind.  I've grown to the age of (almost)38 without ever knowing who I am, or what it was that mattered to me the most.  Is this a midlife crisis?  I don't know.  I do know that when I have that registration over tomorrow, that when I set foot on one of the paths that I passed on many moons ago, I'll feel as if the weight that's been pushing down on me for a very long time will have lifted just a little.  That the burden of not living up to your own expectations of yourself will be lessened just a tad, the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel growing a little bit brighter.  Most of all, I'll know that I'm not doing it to please anyone but myself... and that's the most important thing I've learned in 20 years.  No matter what happens or where the winds may take you, the person you see in the mirror at the end of the day needs to be the one satisfied with the choices you make....

"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."

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