On Turning 26 and Finding New Bliss

For the last two years I’ve had some uneasy feelings about getting older, and they’re particularly strong on my birthday. I have always had a lot of ideas on age-appropriateness as it pertains to life events, and I feel most at ease when I can evenly measure accomplishments in whole years. It’s a way for me to compartmentalize the chaos, probably. For example, I went to college for four years. I moved back in with my parents for exactly one year before getting my first apartment. By my twenty-second birthday, I was settling into a new job I liked and feeling quite pleased with myself for keeping up with the Joneses. After that, life became messier and I wasn’t able to check things off my list as neatly and efficiently as I had before. Now that I can no longer deny being closer to thirty than twenty, I am forced to challenge the myth that my life has deadlines, which, if followed appropriately, will act as a roadmap to living my best life.

Joseph Campbell says in The Power of Myth, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” One more time for the people in the back. We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. This quote causes a tug of war in my brain fiber. Half of me wanted to dismiss it and cast it aside immediately. What do you mean, let go of the plan? The life that’s waiting is a direct result of following the steps of the plan, you have to have a plan! The other half isn’t so sure. Isn’t the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Isn’t life colored by deviations from the plan?

I like “the plan” because it is safe and predictable. It’s also fairly boring and monotonous. In the aforementioned game of tug-of-war, my birthday represents the unbudgeable line-backer at the end of the rope on Joseph Campbell’s side; I have to at least consider another way. Maybe I won’t buy a house this year or run ten miles without stopping. Maybe I won’t meet my soul mate or find the perfect job for another several years. Maybe all of that is okay. Maybe the things I find in the meantime will be more important, and those experiences will be uniquely mine.

So, I don’t have all the answers yet, but I am looking forward to exploring some different paths and picking up some unique experiences and fellow travelers along the way. I’ll end with another Joseph Campbell quote, one that I hope to come back to; “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

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