We all have memories of what it was like to be a teenager; whether it was the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s we have at some time or other supported strange hair styles such as the mullet, super bangs, mohawk or even the side step. Some of us may have experimented with the odd recreational drug, but like Bill Clinton we never inhaled. Throughout the decades teenagers experience that strong sense of urgency for change and the knowledge that they will do life better than their parents did.
The years pass, our lives grow and we find ourselves middle aged noticing that the music of today seems trivial or at times weird. Not at all like it was when we were kids. But as we look upon this new generation of strange teenagers we sometimes wonder, what would 17 year old me say if he met me now?
The few of us who were lucky enough to have a teenage dream that was worth pursuing may look back with pride knowing they ran the course set in motion as teenagers. The sacrifices they made then have gained them all they needed to make it to a successful today. I try not to resent those people; I really do, because they have earned my grudging respect. Unfortunately for the rest of us in our summer years, we look back and wonder, did I sell out and if so, for what and was it worth it?
Believe it or not I actually wanted a career as a struggling artist, surrounded by strange friends and raucous parties. Andy Warhol meets the Great Gatsby was the life I had imagined for my future. I have talked to others who wanted riches, fame, a certain type of wife or husband and we all share something in common; somewhere along the way we abandoned the dream. We gave it up because it was too hard, or not satisfying, or because our tastes changed. For many of us, we look back with regret and think to ourselves, if I could do it again I would do it right. We think back to our parents who told us to knuckle down, study well and work harder so that we can get where they didn’t. We failed to listen and now we are looking back wondering how we’re going to convince our kids to focus and try harder.
The biggest mistake we can make at this stage of the game is to assume that we have set the direction in our lives already, failing, yet again, to listen to the generations before us. Today we see people well into the autumn years of their lives going back to school, switching careers and living the life they want to live. If they can do it, why can’t we? There is no reason we can’t look back to the dreams of our youth, apply the lessons we’ve learned and carry out those goals.
I have friends who have seen nearly a quarter of the world in the last fifteen years and they are well on their way to seeing the rest before they turn 60. Their philosophy; Why wait until retirement to live? I have another friend who is in his sixties who has never left the County Fife in Scotland. His philosophy; He is perfectly content exactly where he is, why would he leave that? What they all have in common is that they have ignored social convention and pursued happiness. It’s as if they took stock of what actually made them happy and said; “Hey, let’s do this.”
So, before we give up on our old dreams or give up on dreaming new ones, take a good hard look at your life and ask “what are the things that make me truly happy?” Is it surfing? Move to California. Why not, people do it all the time and for a lot less motivation then pursuing a life dream. Maybe you dream of world travel? Find work that takes you around the world or save money and volunteer/work abroad to stretch that savings over a few years. Maybe you just wish you had more time with your kids. Sit down tonight, crunch your budget, cut the non essentials, quit your job and unschool your kids.
You can pretty much do anything and now that you’re all "grown up" you actually know how to figure it out. You may have sold out the dreams of your youth but you don’t have to keep selling your dreams. Go ahead, take the plunge and live the life you actually want!