On my weekly hour-long drives to Alamosa to do my office hours at Brackendale, I like to listen to Tim Ferris interview people on his podcast. They are always such impressive people. Big personalities doing big things.
I love the moment in people’s stories where they shook things up. They stopped listening to popular advice, or jumped off the traditional path, and that led them to a place in their lives where they were able to make a bigger impact than anyone around them. I can identify. Not with the big impact thing. But with the part where they veer away from what seems normal and blaze a new path.
Lately I’ve been feeling inadequate, however, stacked up against these super achievers. I did the path-altering thing (from DC to Crestone, from teacher to small business owner), where’s my big impact? Do I need to shake things up even more? My problem is that I live in Crestone, where things are small and slow. I started to envy people who lived in big cities because if you want to shake things up there, it’s doable. You reach out, make connections, find a new path, all from the comfort of your neighborhood. And there are limitless possibilities in a place like that. If you can find the right path, you can have a big impact. It’s all on you.
Did I put myself on the wrong path? I wondered. But then I thought, the task of middle-age is to reconcile your young dreams with your current path. You can call it a “mid-life crisis,” but that makes it sound so dramatic. And also brings up images of bald guys driving red convertibles and hitting on young ladies. But let’s consider this guy in a red car for a moment… is that really what he needs to be doing? Were his unfulfilled young man dreams really all about that red car? Or is there something else more meaningful he could be focusing on?
So I thought back to when I left DC, which put me on this current path in this small town. What was I actually after? I’d forgotten. It’s funny how you get going in a direction and you sometimes forget why you chose it. I had to sit down and purposefully think about it. When I thought back to what I wanted, it wasn’t anything big at all. I wanted less. Life in DC required a lot of input just to survive. I was so exhausted all the time, and that didn’t feel like what I was on earth to do. So I moved to a small town, where life costs less and I could find a smaller, simpler way to live, and enjoy nature.
Do I really wish I were more famous, or had a bigger impact? I don’t think so. I hate public attention. Even teaching was too much attention for me. I like helping people, but helping that many people at one time was extremely draining. I wanted to help people on a much smaller scale.
And when I finally sat down and remembered all of that, I said to myself, huh. Well would you look at that. I actually have everything I asked for. No need to buy the red convertible. Big successes and big impact was never what I wanted. Instead I have small success in a small town. I have a cozy little cabin, good food, a car that goes, and I am doing things I am proud of to make a little money to support this life. Take that, mid-life crisis. I’ll just kick back and enjoy this.
It doesn’t mean that what I asked for is easy all the time. Living small is its own kind of struggle. I can’t afford to do big things. And because I don’t have a salary, sometimes making ends meet is a struggle. But every kind of life has its down sides, and in the end, I am so grateful for the small life I have. So thank you, mid-life crisis. Now I know I wouldn’t change a thing.