No one has a perfect life. No one even comes close for there are only perfect moments within lifetimes. No one has a monopoly on happiness. We sometimes seem to have it all together at times—everything serene, everything working out sublimely, or so we think. But, it’s fleeting.
Since you can’t please all of the people all of the time, the best piece of advice I ever gave myself was to go my own way. No matter what anyone else thought about what I should be doing at any given time in life, ultimately I was the one who had to live with the decisions made, and no matter how influenced by others they were sometimes, too.
If we go about our lives relying heavily on the input of others for what we do, where we go, who we’re with, why we’re with them and when we leave or stay, we aren’t living the life we’ve been given. Sure, the unknown is tough, but the unthinkable is worse. We have to do our own thinking and let ourselves end up where we will. In effect, we have to go our own way.
A new friend told me they had lived through times in life when they didn’t know where their next meal was coming. They also told me they had at times been comfortable enough with their finances that they didn’t have to worry about stuff like that. What was consistent all along was the ability of this person to make the hard decisions they had to. Sometimes their decisions were good ones and sometimes not so good. Did they ever get advice from others along the way? Sure they did and sometimes what happened as a result of the advice of others was good and not so good. By making the majority of the decisions on their own, however, they came to know the meaning of being accountable, for they did not place the blame for their lot in life at any given time on what others had advised them to do. If they had, they told me, they couldn’t have taken credit for the successes and failures in their life. And that, above everything else was most important to them—the mother of all signs that they were adults, going their own way and by doing so, living life to the fullest.
Playing it safe is easy. We get locked into comfort mode and resist change at all costs and measures. This is another way of living that precipitates a fall—from comfort if nothing else. Life will fling crap at us no matter how insulated by good fortune we think we are. We may be riding high in our professional lives only to have it all come crashing down in our personal lives.
If you were able to have a preference as to which part of your life crumbled—professional or personal, which would it be?
The answer for me is professional. We are not able to have either completely problem free, but my personal life crumbling would be more disabling than if it were my professional life. Professional reputations are ruined each day, yet can be rebuilt. If something is destroyed in one’s personal life it may remain forever unrecoverable.
A life well lived includes listening to music both at work, at home and when we’re alone. While I used to think it rude to see (and hear) people on the bus when they listened to their portable music players, I have come to appreciate this way of shutting out the world. It would be more courteous, however, if the ear buds used were not so inexpensive that I could keep from hearing the music they were playing—always made me feel like I was in a bad movie and I was the annoyed guy on the bus sitting not next to the dude going deaf by his own song so to speak, but several rows back. If I could hear it in the back how could people closer and next to him tolerate it?
But listening to different kinds of music is part of what helps us go our own way. There is an appreciation gleaned from exposing oneself to different things including music that isn’t what has grown familiar and comfortable to us. Differences (I hesitate to say diversity because it is too sterile a characterization) are what need to be embraced in order to be part of the world of the truly living.
It always cracked me up when I read those surveys of what people would be able to give up and what they would not. What was pretty hilarious, at least to me, were those that indicated a good percentage of the population would forgo sex rather than be without the Internet—talk about having an alternative lifestyle!
As I’ve gotten older my tolerance for many things has grown greater. That is another part of going, in this case, my own way. If I could wish one thing for youngsters it is for them to have tolerance and to be tolerant, of differences, in people, cultures, opinions and customs not your own that do not hurt anyone or anything. When we embrace our differences and the uniqueness of them, the variety of them, and when we do so uniformly across cultures and genders, life is better. It is better by virtue of the fact that our differences, and the sharing and adopting of them, makes us more alike, draws us more tightly together, and as we go our own ways.