How many times have you heard the old saying “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” and then completely ignored it, brushing it off as one of those obnoxious cliches created by adults in one of “I’m trying to connect with you” kind of tones? Probably about as many times as my grandma spits food on someone while talking during dinner – a lot. And the crazy thing is – how many times have you gotten “x” number of months down the road and thought “DAMNIT. They were right?! AGAIN?!”

It’s a bitch, eh? Admitting that maybe – just maybe – you ought to listen to the sound advice of your parents, co-workers, professors and anyone else who was actually around to see The Doors live.

Today at work [while working hard, obviously], we started talking about the epic midlife crisis (one that I really am not looking forward to, seeing as I’m finally getting out of my quarter life crisis). I’m the youngest one in my office, so I hear a lot of the obvious “you’re still young – you can do whatever you want with your life” lectures. I’m always fairly mindfucked by them, honestly. I am notorious for falling into a comfort zone – a habitual pattern of life events – that I never realize how much time has passed before I’ve actually gotten back to that big “is this what I really want to do?” question. Well, this conversation spurred the obvious next big idea:

If you could leave your current job to do anything in the world, knowing that your family, finances and expenses would remain intact, what would you do?

We left it open to anything except for “sitting around on my ass, living off the system” – because let’s face it – no matter how self-righteous we all try to be about being a proud productive member of society, I guarantee we’d all willingly reap the benefits of the unemployment chain for a few weeks. The crazy thing is that most of us said really humbling things – helping under privileged kids learn how to read, growing and selling fruits and vegetables from a homemade orchard, and my own personal response – running a no-kill animal shelter on a large piece of land. And what I find even more interesting is that we all responded without thought – like it was a dream still alive in the back of our minds that we occasionally watered once a week…not enough to keep it alive and thriving, but just enough so that it didn’t die.

So, why aren’t we doing these things? Well, once again – the responses are pretty obvious. Because the real issue isn’t that we don’t have the passion, it’s that we’ve somehow locked ourselves into mortgages, car payments, braces for our kids, or credit cards racked up with frivolous spending in our younger days (ok, so that last one was mine…and they aren’t my younger days…I’m only 25. Don’t judge). We don’t believe that our lives allow this kind of passionate freedom.

As people get older, they see the younger generations and their eternally burning flames of passion as a hopeless dream that will eventually die. We can’t all save the world is the general consensus of adults. As we get older, we forget about the childhood dreams we had of being an astronaut, being a writer, becoming the next president. And sure, we soon learn that there really aren’t enough years in our lifespan for all of us to run the country (besides, let’s be real – the weird kid who used to attach fireworks to cats is probably better off not in charge), and that maybe the person who can’t stand the sight of blood would find better career luck outside of the medical field. But the passion we had as a kid, that colorful belief that the opportunities for us to channel our passion are limitless – it somehow manages to get stored in a box covered in cynicism, financial obligations and let’s face it – the occasional beatdown from those “older and wiser” than us who think we ought to find “realistic” outlets for our knowledge.

Why do we feel the need to stifle our dreams in exchange for the desk job we never asked for? Is the crappy second job we work every night the price we pay for a family that’s able to enjoy their lives together without the worry and concern of what they’ll have for dinner tomorrow? For some, the answer is obviously yes – you make sacrifices for your family and the people you care about, no questions asked. But at what cost? Do we sacrifice our own dreams so that future generations may live out theirs? And if that’s the case, isn’t it just a vicious cycle? Where do we draw the line between being able to live out our dreams and still functioning in this jaded place we call the Real World?

I guess this next paragraph is supposed to be an answer to that question, but unfortunately, I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t think I’m old enough to know, to be honest with you. I’m still in the “you can do anything you want” phase of life, and I’m struggling enough with that because clearly working in an office isn’t what I pictured when I played the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” game in elementary school. Also, I was called “the help” this week. Just thought I’d throw that one in there, just to add salt to the wound.

I guess all I’m saying is that we have to evaluate our happiness on a regular basis. I don’t want to end up at 50, miserable at a job I never asked for and questioning whether or not it was all worth it. I have a lot of great things and people in my life right now, and there are some things I know I’ll look back on in 50 years and be forever grateful for. Others? Not so much. The trick is to find those things that you hate – the things you know you’d look back on and regret – and fix them now. Will you regret not volunteering? Not trying your luck at freelancing? Not opening your heart to someone? Then you’ve GOT to figure out how to do it.

The last thing we want to do is picture ourselves at 75, telling our grandchildren how much we hated our jobs, never took the risk, missed the opportunity. Instead of giving advice, BE the advice. Don’t just let it happen, make it happen. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself sitting at the same desk in 50 years, wondering what you could have accomplished had you just believed that you could. Lastly, I’ll leave you my favorite quote from Nike. It’s essentially how I got through my half-marathon, and we often forget the control and power we have within ourselves in the midst of the negativity our society impresses up on us. Enjoy, and happy happiness-evaluations 🙂

“All your life you are told the things you cannot do. All your life they will say you’re not good enough or strong enough or talented enough; they will say you’re the wrong height or the wrong weight or the wrong type to play this or be this or achieve this. They will tell you no, a thousand times no, until all the no’s become meaningless. All your life they will tell you no, quite firmly and very quickly. And you will tell them yes.” – Nike