Every once in a while it is soul soothing, and life enriching to take a personal walk down memory lane. Find that old photo album in the attic, revisit a diary or watch a video from your past and you will realize that somewhere along the way, you likely got lost. Perhaps not terribly lost, but at least thrown off course. Life, has a funny way of changing your plans without your permission. And although the walk backwards can be bittersweet, it can also be just the incentive you need to move forward with the passion and swagger that you had ‘back in the day.’ How so? Read on.
For most of us starting out as adults, we have such a firm definition of what the next decade is supposed to hold. In fact, young people are held to so many preconceived notions of what will happen next, that few question whether it is right or wrong for them. You are supposed to get married and you are supposed to have kids. You are supposed to settle down, be responsible, and land a job that supports you. Truth is most of high school is designed to prepare you for what you are supposed to do. And with so many adults, teachers and well-wishers pointing you in your supposed direction, it is difficult to question. And then off you go as if you are racing against some kind of alarm clock that is going to beep in your ear at any minute.
While you are busy going and doing, your dreams begin shriveling. So you wanted to be a rodeo queen, a scuba diver or join the Coast Guard. Since these weren’t things you were ‘supposed’ to do, you moved forward chasing what is considered every persons dream. And slowly but surely, growing up and all the so-called freedoms that come with it, didn’t feel so liberating anymore. The more you do, the more you have, the more responsibilities you encounter, and the harder it is to get back to the old you that would have been happy waitressing in the Florida Keys.
The problem of course, is that the faster we run toward the future the easier it is to forget about the past. At least for a little while. And so many middle-aged people realize 15 years too late that life isn’t about chasing something, but about allowing life to catch you. This is why so many of us, so much of the time, have moments of feeling regret, remorse, guilt and even longing for the person we used to be. This is exactly when you will find yourself wondering, “What happened to me?”
It’s easy to get lost behind a job, behind marriage, behind parenthood. Your identity, at least the one you had before, doesn’t seem to fit anymore…so like good and responsible adults we give it up. Ironically, and perhaps luckily….it isn’t lost forever. One old picture seeing yourself smile or laugh in a way that you haven’t done in years can be all it takes to learn how to combine your dreams and attitude of yesterday with your responsibilities and experience of today. So my friend, what are YOU waiting for?
Obviously, there is no need to do anything rash. Most mid life crises which seem to tatter families and pull people apart are simply about a longing for ones old self. Yet, by starting slowly and remembering the kinds of things you used to enjoy, what made you laugh and what you were most passionate about BEFORE you became so regimented and boring, you can easily get back to who you used to be. Start with one thing at a time. If you loved taking a yoga class, or loved to mountain bike…then start back doing so. If you dreamed of being a painter or writing a book, then take up your old habits. As you incorporate the you of yesterday into the you of today, you will find that you are also able to recreate those happy feelings that seem to prove you are living your abundant, authentic life. Chances are the people around you will like you much better, and appreciate this part of you rather than be intimidated by it.
If you are wondering what happened to you, you also need to start separating fact from fiction. Choose the things that make you happy in life, that make you feel satisfied. Spend your time wisely by choosing to live in the moment and to not allow every single day to pass you by without doing something (anything) that you are passionate about! Stop living by other people’s standards and listen to your mental chatter to help direct you in the ways you should go. Weed out feelings of ‘supposed to do’ something from ‘want to do’ something. Chances are you won’t be recreating your life or yourself, just finding who you are again.
Perhaps the greatest thing about growing up, about moving forward, about gaining life experience is that you finally have the tools necessary to make decisions in your own best interests. Wondering what happened to you is part of the process, and a healthy and normal way to ensure that you are providing YOURSELF with the best life possible. Instead of feeling remorseful or even sad that part of you has disappeared, have the courage to dig deep inside and pull him or her back out. You will be glad you did.
You aren’t lost…you simply changing course. And you have the ultimate decision about what course you want to take from this point forward.