BeFoRe ThE NiGhT EnDs


I have a love affair with New Age music. Give me Yanni. And Enya. Over Hard Rock. Country. Ear-splitting heavy metal. Any day. My taste in music is rather eclectic. New Age ranks pretty highly. In Yanni’s 2009 album Yanni Voices, Leslie Mills sang a number called “Before the Night Ends”. A song which has strummed chords on the windows of my soul lately. My life is becoming full circle. Not a moment too soon. I will revisit this later.

I’ve had countless conversations with friends, family, even total strangers about dreams they have. Adventures they long to pursue. One of these days. “Before they kick it”. Predictably, the ending comes with a long drawn out sigh. Words to the effect of “One of these days, I will do ……. (Fill in the blanks). I just don’t have time. Nor the money. Maybe when circumstances change. And things get better”. These words have fallen from my lips. Until reality bit.

Tell me if the following does not reek with the curse of familiarity. Many attend college. Get a degree. Then a job. Work for decades. Save for retirement. Somewhere in between, start a family. Raise kids. Help pay for a wedding. If not all of it. A vacation or two is squeezed in somewhere. Maybe once per year. Or every few years. Retirement arrives. In all its glory. So are the days spent seeing one health specialist after another. Or perhaps playing bingo. Or bridge at the local community centre. Some are caught raising grandkids. Or babysitting them. Others volunteer. Before you know it. Your time is up. Death has dues which must be paid. An alarming number of people fit this mold. Don’t they? Scary.

Let’s put religion and philosophy aside. At least for this post. Humor me.Please. What do you want to make of life? What are the things you dream of doing? Let’s list some examples: travel. Run a marathon. Write a book. Find a cause and fight for it. Develop a new talent. Go kayaking. Or sky diving. Learn a new language. Or a new dance. Act on stage. Do a standup comedy act. Sing karaoke in public. Take part in a competition. Be homeless for a day. Organize a charity fundraiser. Attend the concert of your favorite artist. Start a business. Return to school. Offer your services pro bono. Truly the list is infinite. Hopes and dreams so far out of reach. One day. Is the vow.

I am not advocating irresponsibility. Nor reckless abandon. Let alone throw caution to the wind. Heck, I am not even suggesting you become an overnight adrenaline junkie. Just a nudge in the direction of pursuing your dreams. Perhaps with more vigor. More meaning. Intensity. As if you won’t ever get the chance again. How long will you live? What will happen to you between now and then? If only anyone knew. That’s just it. No one does. There are no do over’s. Just fresh starts.

Fear is a reason why we don’t pursue our dreams. It may not work. A train wreck in the making. We are afraid of failure. Before even trying. Don’t forget what others might think. Or say. Or do. We want it. Sure sounds nice. However, we don’t even want it bad enough. We have a changeable list. Depending on circumstances. We cross out and replace. It seems so silly now. An asinine childhood dream. Mature adults put away self-indulgent fantasies don’t they? But wait. Perchance there is another reason. One we are afraid to tell ourselves. The fact we just don’t have the gumption. The nerve. Get-up-and-go.

We can’t overlook the possibility of wasting precious time. And resources. On a venture which may never come to fruition. So why even bother? These are some of the things we tell ourselves. When we try to rationalize away our failure to try. When we look in the mirror. And stare at the only person standing in our way. The things we tell ourselves to sleep better at night. Things that give comfort when we are alone with our thoughts. When the silent, inner battle continues to rage. Fiercely within our souls. Battles which can easily be won with one resolve. Courage.

Sure, some things take time. Resources. Careful planning. Others do not. We have vivid memories of the time when a dream was within our grasp. With trepidation, we reached forward. Hands trembling. Fists closed. But Alas! Frayed nerves took over.  The smell of failure distorted our vision. Unable to see clearly. We stumbled. We saw a sign with the words “WHAT IF” in bold letters.

The immediate thought is to quit now. And try later. We pulled back. And retreated. Boy that was close!! Maybe some other time. Except of course that time never comes. Fast forward to old age. If we are lucky. Circumstances have drastically changed. Sure we have time. But what else? Empty nest syndrome has quietly let itself in. Taken up permanent residence. Resources might be limited. Good health depends on the weather. And other circumstances.

Some of my readers might think this post is too satirical. Downright disconcerting. No one is comfortable contemplating the possibility their life will mimic the scenes described above. No way. This post perfectly describes someone else. Think for a moment. Or more. If someone writes your autobiography, think how it will seem to readers. Will it be a struggle to get past the introduction? Or will they stay up all night to see what happens next? Yes, some of us want a quiet, peaceful existence. We simply want to work. Raise our kids. And be happy. Nothing wrong with that.

However, if you are anything like the rest of us. You want all the above and more. To grab life by the horns. And don’t let go. To live your dreams. Write your own life story. Instead of it being written for you. To live life with no regrets. You are fully aware of the things you want to do. You would rather regret the things you did do, instead of those you did not do. Then I am speaking to you. To the part of you that has been restrained for too long. The inner spirit which looks around and crave more. A lot more. You are restless. Fidgety. It’s like asking a two-year old to sit through an hour-long meeting with arms folded. Uh huh. You should be making things happen. You don’t care about resolutions. Things are either going to happen. Or they are not. You know who you are. Go on. Get out. Get yours.

Back to why I mentioned the song “Before the Night Ends”.  In summary, the songwriter hopes to find her love before the night comes to a close. No matter what. I have included a link below for your listening pleasure. I am taking a few years off before I return to school to pursue a doctorate. I have thought long and hard about what I want to do until then. I have even toyed with the idea of putting it off for a bit longer. Travel and teach. Pursue new interests. Volunteer. Etc.

I can see the ones who like comfort zones. And safety blankets. Shaking their heads. The wheels are churning. Furiously. The natural order of things after earning a graduate degree, would be to either get a well-paying job or return to school. Surely, this places me in a position to earn a six figure income in the next several years. Pad my bank account. Secure my retirement. Save for the European cruise. Add to the list of should. This is what the world says. True. What family expects. That is a given. What friends will advise. They are trying to help right?

This is how I see it. There will be time to make money. A lot of it. Whether or not I have money, I have chosen to be happy. To be at peace with my decisions. There will be time to enjoy the fruit of my labors. I refuse to say decades from now: “How I wish I had…”.Instead, I let work, things, and the ever popular wet blankets get in the way. Who is to say I am going to live to enjoy all the money I have stashed away for decades? Now I am not going to be careless, by not planning for a financially secure future. That is if it comes. A girl has to have her wits about her. Same for the guys. However. In the interim. I will do the things which make me happy. I will live my best life.

Finally, whether you are in your 20’s, 30’s like me, 40’s whatever….before the night ends…what do you hope for? How will this hope become a reality? Before “your teeth are in a cup, eyes on the shelf, and ears on the nightstand”, I hope we are chasing our dreams. Not someone else’s. Let alone what everyone expects you to do. That you are living your best life. Or doing something about it. If you were viewing scenes of your life years from now.  Let’s hope you enjoy what you see.

Enjoy this Leslie Mills number :

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

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Cross…..sdaoR…..


It’s a New Year. New starts. Resolutions.Do’s. Don’ts.Decisions. Making them.Keeping them.Hoping you get it right. Let’s get this party started!

I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago. Our conversations are generally easy. Like a comfortable chat with someone you’ve known for a bit. I explained some of my growing frustrations. My friend thought I was in a “waiting room” of sorts. Yes. You know. The waiting room of life. Consider this analogy. You are waiting to see your GP/PCP.  You know. The interminable wait: to see the good doc for a few minutes. When the nurse assistant appears/the monitor beeps. Everything else fades. You hold your breath. Heart rate momentarily increases. Eyes and ears strain to hear/see your name. Unconsciously, you reach for your belongings. It has to be you. No one else has waited as long, have they? If only you could get through the first door. To the next waiting room. You will be one step closer to seeing the health magician. But alas. Joe Schmo gets called. You swallow the bitter taste of disappointment. Enter reality. Maybe next time. For now, it’s back to the waiting game. The cycle of it all.

Has your life ever felt that way? As if you are stuck in reverse? You arrive at a destination. Precious time and sacrifices got you there. The plan succeeded. But now what? What’s beyond this goal? You can’t shake the feeling that something is missing. Do you long to travel? Perhaps get a new job. Enter into the relationship you finally have time for. Mend another. Declutter your life. Move away. Whatever the situation. You can’t move on until you get past this. Whatever this happens to be. For us. If you’ve been there. Or you are here. Chances are you have arrived at a Crossroad in life. What happens next will change your life. For the better. Worse. Or maybe it wont. Once we find ourselves at a Crossroad, how should we proceed? How can we be certain we are making the right decisions? Decisions that will impact you. And future generations.

As 2011 drew to a close, I looked back on the things I accomplished this past year. A sudden realisation struck me : it’s as if my life is just beginning! As such, I feel as if I am waiting for the next big adventure. The next big conquest. Before I kick it, I want to teach in Africa. Sudan is on my mind. It will take 1-2 years before this goal is realized. For now, however, I am once again face-to-face with this incurable disease of wanderlust. It’s back. Never left. I applied a small band-aid to a gushing wound when I made the decision to study in the UK. But alas as it always does, time came knocking. The band-aid has been rendered useless. As I knew it would. The wound has been reopened. No band aid will fix it this time around. It’s time to apply firm pressure, and perhaps a visit to places, situations, and relationships which will soothe my soul and provide healing. Decisions that will cause me to choose a particular fork in the road, versus another. Questions should not be turned into a bunch of jumbled up musings. Where do I go from here?  I know one thing for certain. If and when I get to old age, I would rather regret the things I did do, instead of the things I did not do.

I know the typical answers. Pray. Done. Find a purpose and fight for it. Check. Develop new passions. Double-check.Yep. The whole lot. Having made up my mind on what I wanted to do, I thought my readers would like to hear another perspective. While at uni, I met a truly wonderful human being. Her name is Antje Goldner. She willingly agreed to contribute to this piece. I am grateful for her response. I am a regular reader of her blog, click on the link below to find out why.

Here is Antje’s take :

“Recently, while I was home in southern Germany, I went with my family on a walk organized by a local historian, who took us on a pretty hike and stopped at certain points along the way to give little talks on some historical events or facts connected to that area. Towards the end of the hike he stopped at a quiet little crossroad to tell us a local legend of how the people in the village nearby used to believe that the devil would manifest itself at this spot on New Year’s Eve, just at the stroke of midnight. He added that in medieval times, crossroads in general were considered unlucky and frightening. This made me think of all those legendary blues musicians from the southern states of the USA, who were said to have stayed out on an empty country crossroad over night to meet the devil, giving it their souls in exchange for the ability to play their instruments better than anyone else.

How come that crossroads are feared the same in different cultures and throughout different times? I guess it has something to do with insecurity. At a crossroad you have to make a choice and usually, you have to make it by yourself. Maybe you have to leave a well-travelled path and choose one that is only the merest outline on the ground. Or you are afraid of losing your own way by choosing one that a lot of people have gone already. Whichever way you choose, you don’t know where it will lead; you don’t know who you will meet along the way, who you will have to leave behind, how you will change by walking that road. Most importantly: you don’t know if your choice will be the right one.

I used to agonize over this. I think everyone does at some point in their lives. Some people never stop. If you are one of those people, I have a thought for you: how do you know if a direction you took was wrong or right? You will never know! You will never be able to go back and take that exact same decision at that exact same crossroad again. Even if you were able to go back to the crossroad, it would not be the same, because you would have a whole set of new experiences with you. So if you cannot know, there is no need to dither, or to agonize. Once I fully realized this, I stopped worrying about those frightening crossroads. Nowadays, I just take the one that feels or looks right at that point. It works for me. I travel lighter, and if I feel that my path is not perfect, I don’t think about going back and taking another road – I think about how I can improve the road I am on.

If you are still standing at your crossroad, unable to move on, insecure, unsure – remember that the only difference between the one road and the other is quite simply your choice. By choosing one road above another, you make it different. You make it yours. And once you are past that crossroad, don’t think about it again. Believe me, it’s not worth it. Instead, keep your energy and your attention to the path you are walking on now. Look out for the little surprises along the way – the unexpected vistas, the flowers growing in colourful clumps here and there, your fellow travellers who will make you laugh and cry. Keep your eyes open and appreciate the details and you will be surprised by what you see. And if you still find that you don’t like this path, don’t worry: there’s another crossroad coming up, right behind the next bend in the road”.

Antje (http://crestingthewords.wordpress.com)

Finally, if you are struggling with where to go. What to do. How to get there. Pray about what is best for you. Act upon the promptings you will receive. Once you have made the decision. Do it. Try not to waver. Or wonder about the “what if’s” in life. They will always be there. Whether or not you succeed. Or fail. Think about the choices that have brought you to this point. There is no do over. But there are fresh starts. Millions crave the opportunities that we have. We have freedom. Health. Hope. Opportunity. You name it. You know your blessings. You are the only person standing in your way.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan