Lesson-learned #6 from my Year By the Water is what my son Tom said when I told him I was taking off for this adventure and writing about my adventures and insights. He said, “So, you’re finally going to put yourself in the story.”
I encountered many people on my travels who wistfully talked about the dreams they’ve put on hold because of their responsibilities. Many told me they’re so busy taking care of everyone else, they’re not taking care of themselves. They have college debt to pay off, people at work counting on them, kids to raise, parents with health challenges that need help …the list goes on.
Someday, they say, they’ll do more of what puts the light on in their eyes. Some seemed to think it’s selfish to do something – even if it’s once a week – that brings them joy. On some level, they may even believe it’s noble to self-sacrifice and serve others.
Sound familiar? I shared my newfound experience that doing things that make US happy makes OTHER PEOPLE happy too. It’s not selfish; it’s smart. It is what healthy people do.
And we don’t have to quit our job, get a divorce, win the lottery, abandon the people counting on us, or walk away from our responsibilities to do this. I think we can carve out time to do a little more of what puts the light on in our eyes every week. Even if it’s for an hour or two.
When everyone takes personal responsibility for doing what more of what matters to them, everyone wins.
I didn’t realize when I set out on my Year by the Water that I was pursuing what author Paulo Coelho calls our “personal legend.”
Have you read his classic book The Alchemist? Many people have told me its their favorite book, but for some reason I never read it. Now I know why. I was supposed to listen to it.
I downloaded the Audible version of Coelho’s classic and listened to it while driving from Florida to North Carolina, I was swept up in his story of the shepherd Santiago as he journeys to the Pyramids in search of treasure. Along the way, he encounters characters who embody the facets of the prism that unfold when we pursue our personal legend.
He meets a crystal shop owner who lives with regrets because he never summoned the courage to answer his calling, change his life and do what he really wanted to do.
It gave me pause. Tom and Andrew, both in the twenties, talked about me being a boomer. I never really think about my age. (I’ve always heard we feel like we’re in our thirties on the inside, regardless of how old we are on the outside, and that’s true for me. How about you?)
Some people think what I’ve done – (give away 95% of what I own and set out on my own to create a life of my own) is scary or risky and that I’m brave to do this. But I don’t think about it as being brave, and I don’t see my travels as risky or scary.
What is scary to me is the regrets I would have had if I had ignored the nudges that were calling me to explore our country’s bodies of water and write about them.
The true risk would have been to miss out on the deeply rewarding treasures I’ve experienced, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve visited, the experiences I’ve had.
What’s this got to do with you? Now is the time to put yourself in your own story.
You have earned the right. Many of us have spent decades taking care of others – at work (our customers and colleagues); at home (our kids, partner and parents); and in our personal and professional community (neighbors and association, team or club members). It is fair for you to balance honoring other people’s needs and wishes with honoring your own. As the saying goes, if not now, when?
And in case you’re wondering, I don’t think it’s indulgent or hedonistic to do more of makes us happy – whether that’s to go to rock and roll camp or get back into a hobby we used to love. I think it’s inspiring.
I’ve come to believe the people we care about want us to take better care of ourselves. Taking responsibility for our physical and mental well-being sets a precedent for others and gives them permission and the motivation to do it for themselves.
When I speak on this topic for associations and corporations, I title it … Change at Any Age, There Is No Present Like the Time, or (depending on the audience) … Boomer or Later.
This message is NOT just for people of a certain age – it’s for people of any age.
Is your personal legend calling you? Is there something missing from you life you used to enjoy but no longer have time for? Set it in motion. Bring it back into your life. Trust that your loved ones want you to love your life.
You will never regret doing more (even if it’s for an hour or two a week) of what puts the light on in your eyes. You will never regret putting yourself in the story of your life. You will only regret not doing it … sooner.