So, it turns out I'm 40.
I don't feel old. I'm in great shape, at least better than I was at 25 when I was a pack a day smoker who never exercised and ate nothing but chicken tenders, french fries, and the occasional frozen pizza. Turns out, I'm actually in the prime of my life. I feel better and look better than I ever have. Yet... I'm bored. Constantly and thoroughly bored. But I'm also really busy, so that's kind of a paradox that I could be bored while having a list of things to do that could never be exhausted even if there were three of me. But it's my own fault and here are the reasons why:
1. I have done this to myself.
For about the first year I worked at my job, my co-workers would always invite me out to lunch, but I would always decline. I'd use that time to read or study. After a while, they just stopped asking. Now, six years later, no one ever invites me to lunch, not EVER. Of course, they don't, why would they? I've trained them not to. Even now, if I wanted this camaraderie, I could just speak up and invite myself. I'm sure I'd be welcome. I could also invite THEM out to lunch, or plan a pitch in. But I never do that. No, I do not ever do any of those things.
This doesn't just stop at work, either. Friends keep inviting me to do all kinds of things, camping, fishing, concerts, protests, even a Kentucky distillery tour! I'd love to be a part of any of those things, but I almost always decline. I've got this, that or the other thing to deal with... I can't spare the cost... excuses, excuses. What I'm really saying to my friends is that they don't matter to me... at least not any more than those other things.
2. I never go anywhere.
I choose restaurant food, craft beer, and lattes over saving for travel and experiences. I work with several people from overseas from India, China, Turkey, Mexico, the UK, Brazil, you name it. One thing that all of these people have in common is that they have all seen much more of the United States than I have. I have never been to New York City or San Francisco. I have neither been to Yosemite, nor to Yellowstone. I've never seen Niagara falls or the Pacific Northwest but my colleges have seen them all. I admit that I am envious, but I have no right to be. I have had the opportunity to see all of these places several times over. I have never just made the plan, set aside the money, and just god-damned gone and done it.
3. I'm not willing to get up early or stay up late.
I have so many ideas... so many! I have two books started and work on them pretty much never. I have written several children's' books that just need illustrations, but they never move forward. By the time I get home from work, get dinner on the table, and get the kids to bed, I feel like I don't have the steam. Going straight to bed or watching TV is the reason why other people can claim the title of author and I cannot.
4. I have let myself become overwhelmed.
I'm not good at saying no. Not at work, not at home, not with volunteer opportunities. I want to do EVERYTHING, I really do... but the fact is that I am a mortal human being with finite capabilities. I just simply cannot meet all of my responsibilities AND all of my interests. It's just not possible. So when I'm asked to take on a community project, I need to say no. When I am asked to volunteer at my daughters' school, I need to say no. Not because I don't want to, but because I can't accept that assignment AND do well at it. It's neither good for me nor the school or whoever else if I make commitments I cannot realistically keep. It's hard to say no and it often meets with contempt. It's very frustrating when other overwhelmed adults can't seem to empathize with another's reluctance to accept yet another thankless task, but that's really their problem. It's not my responsibility to help them deliver the things they've over-promised. It is, however, my own responsibility to not make promises I can't realistically deliver upon.
5. I haven't insisted on time for my health.
The human body is quite an intricate machine. It requires maintenance or it disintegrates, just like any other system. But the fact is that in the course of a week there are 168 hours. I really only need about 4 hours total for the gym, including travel time to and from, plus maybe another two hours cumulative throughout the week to plan my diet and workouts. So, that 0.04% of hours of my week should be absolutely crucial and NOT optional. Work time is considered not optional, but without physical and mental fitness you'll be no good at your work, so these hours should be absolutely sacred. I have a gym membership... my employer even has some on-site training rooms for days I can't break out long enough to get to the full gym... I have a fitness band for days I can't even leave my desk... there are literally zero excuses.
Life may be mundane at times, maybe even for very long amounts of time... but maybe that's the best thing about it. Maybe the monotony that allows us the comfort of knowing generally what to expect is the same force that gives us the chance to break it up... to know what to fix... to pepper in mini-adventures without overturning the whole canoe. Maybe that's what allows us to reach out of our comfort zones and do something amazing once in a while, then come back and snuggle in our warm, cozy, and familiar beds.
Yes, I'm 40. But I'm healthier, stronger, and smarter than I was even in my 20's. Though I am grateful for the past and what it has taught me, It's full steam ahead from here.
All the best,