Stop chasing and start experiencing…

As you all know, writing is something that I aspire to do full time, so I’ve been working to build content that I could share, more regularly, with the intent of helping other people recognize the curve balls life will throw at us and to be better prepared to handle those curve balls as we walk through life.  I have been writing in a journal, every day, for the last year capturing what goes on in my life (and in my head) hoping that some of my struggles, mistakes and successes could be used by others as they navigate through their journey.  I started reading some of my hand-written gems last month and realized that I have plenty of content to share and more chaos than I’d like to admit.  In reality, to write full time, I’m estimating that it will take 20,000 readers per month, so no time like the present to begin a more regular schedule of “blog posts” (I get 200-300 readers a month, so what’s another 19,000 & change, right)?  It’s time to play back 2011 and offer a synopsis of  one year in the life of one “crazy” man who worked to transform from being a serial chaser of “things” and focus on becoming more grounded in experiencing life for what it has to offer. 

Some of you know my story.  Yes, I let my ego and some of my insecurities fuel certain actions in my life.  In hindsight, I grew up believing that I needed to impress other people, keep the peace with people and ensure that conflict wasn’t something that I was generating.  Don’t misunderstand me, I had a solid childhood, but what I’ve recognized is that having my own opinions wasn’t natural to me.  As I got older I realized that it was going to be necessary to have opinions and even more necessary to learn how to be humble enough to occasionally adjust the opinions you have formed.  It’s helpful when forming opinions to have some life experiences and I hadn’t really had any early in life, so it became more challenging for me to form my own.  It was immediately following my undergraduate degree that I started to pay attention to the pressures that all of us face as we begin this new phase in life and honestly, I was ill-equipped to take a stance.  The way I figure it, I’ve been able to become more cognizant of my own life choices over the last 16 years and that’s because I’ve had 16 years of climbing the corporate ladder, attending graduate school, spending to justify, buying “things” that had limited necessity or value and if life threw a curve, I fell prey to the game of blaming other people for the mistakes I had made.

As I’ve grown up a bit I have become more passionate about how contradictory our society is.  Life has some pretty comical “asks” of us…but society’s pressures take the cake.  We are taught to work hard, have a stable career, save our money, raise children and yes, we bought into the story that all of these things (your house, your title, your bank account and even your car may reflect on how well you are doing as a person).  If this continues, we are setting up too many people for a set of expectations that aren’t really theirs to begin with.  I am no longer afraid to admit that I racked up significant debt in my 20’s and 30’s, tested my relationship with my wife and flubbed a bit with my parenting skills.  It was 13 long years (1995 until 2008) before I realized and accepted that I was too tired with my life and wasn’t confident that I could keep up the façade any longer.  I needed to make a change and as anyone will tell you, cliché or not, change isn’t something that someone else will give you, you have to take responsibility and change the behaviour in question.

Back to my daily journal (thanks for the gift Mom & Dad)…I’ve been looking back and paying close attention to the triggers that put me into the negative places I’ve visited.  My wife and I committed to paying back the debt I referenced earlier and we are fast approaching the close of a 5 year program that will have us debt free.  I’m more active as a father now and I’m more physically active too.  My running, my writing and my family are priorities in my life and it has taken years for these actions to become habitual.  As I read back through passages from the last 8 months, I am beginning to believe that most of what I was experiencing was a self fulfilling prophecy and I’d bet there are others in the same boat. 

Most mornings that I wake up I tend to think about the emails that await me, the practices I have to run to with the kids, the toilet that needs a new part or the ceiling that could use a coat of paint, the car that needs a new mirror, dinner plans for the week and oh yeah, squeak in your run, read a book, write an article, save for retirement and be polite to everyone while in process.  It’s this pace that I am working to slow down and have become accepting that the pace may not change (while I have small children), so I’m working to enjoy it versus fight it.

What I learned from my introspection is this… It is painful to chase someone’s expectations under the cloak that they are your own.  I have found it more rewarding to do things based on my own principles, even if these principles run contrary to others.  My recommendation is to refrain from chasing anything.  Slow down and experience everything you can (even if it is something frustrating).  Excel at your passions, not because you think someone else might be happy with you, so those passions and your efforts can help the people you encounter daily.  Get physically active, not because it will help you lose weight, because your body and mind can become more alert and cognizant to everything around you.  And finally, something I haven’t been great at…spend time with your family and friends.  They will be gone before you expect it and what a shame it can be to waste the experiences those people bring into your life.  I hope you enjoy hearing about my 2011 and share your thoughts and I’ll look forward to your feedback.