Be Careful What You Ask For

I’ve been engaged in some professional development stuff at work, so I’ve been doing a lot of navel gazing of late.  I have also spoken with several people who have risen to impressive professional heights, and I’ve read several business tomes on leadership. 

A truth has emerged from all of this:  it seems that the higher the ascent, the less control one has over one’s personal life, and the more isolated one becomes from others in the workplace.  The peer group, of necessity, gets smaller, while the weight of responsibility increases dramatically.  And the chances of making a very public gaffe increase proportionally, if not exponentially.

What drives people to that lonely place at the top?  I’m sure there are many answers to that question, some more noble than others.  I won’t speculate here.   But that question is related to another that may have more relevance to us everyday folk – what makes all of us somehow want “more” from our careers, personal lives, or relationships?  It seems that we’re a nation of strivers, always looking for that next best thing, eyes on the horizon, hopeful about tomorrow. 

What about today?  What about what we have in front of us, right now?

I’m as guilty of this sort of thinking as the next person, and this isn’t a new phenomenon.  When I was 17, all I could think about was high school graduation.  I hated high school – I was not well-liked or well-adjusted, and I longed to have it over and have a fresh start in college.  My dad, a very wise man, said to me one day – in one of those look-you-in-the-eyes, this is IMPORTANT sort of moments – that I should never wish time away, because I could never get it back. 

At 17, this didn’t resonate.  At 40something, it vibrates like a two-ton gong, and looking ahead, I can only imagine how much louder it will get. 

I had the privilege of spending my dad’s last days with him, and of having some conversations with him when he knew, as did I, that he was dying.  I looked into his eyes then, and it was eminently clear that he was not thinking about the money he didn’t make, the projects he didn’t complete, or the closets that went untidied.  It was all about the love he had experienced in his life, and the lives he had created.

Many writers are minting money selling books on this topic – themes of “happiness now” and living mindfully permeate our culture, probably to counteract all of the mindless striving we’re engaged in.  I’m not about to join the ranks of the self-help gurus or get all new-agey.  But I do want to try to slow up, look down at my feet once in a while, and stop mindlessly wishing time away.  My dad was right:  we don’t get it back. 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Be Careful What You Ask For

  1. Blob

    Mixing and matching from your last two topics (of books and work), Elizabeth Gilbert was on Oprah yesterday. L watched it while not enjoying working out.

    As for your thoughts on work and life, while you ponder that, I just wonder why is it that I’m reading about fermented yak’s milk.

  2. I realized several months ago that “the rest of my life” was no longer this open-ended bag of potential promises and adventures waiting to be fulfilled. It was a gut-check time for me. When you’re in your teens and twenties, you’re thinking of what lies ahead – all the unwritten chapters of life that can be done poorly the first time and revised in due time, all the risks and rewards and experiences and adventures that lie ahead … you have the luxury of time, because it’s all still amorphously out there, ahead of you, just waiting for you to grab hold and choose. I realized just this past year, though, that my life is NOW. I’m living it NOW. It’s not something that’s going to happen in a few years, once I build up my resume. No, life is happening right now and if you don’t stop and take a look every so often, you’re going to end up looking back and wondering what you missed. The sad part is that I wrote and truly believe all this, and yet nearly every personal email I sent to friends today was entitled ‘Halfway Through The Week,’ as a reminder to them and me that Friday’s nearly upon us…because I DO spend an awful lot of time wishing the days away.

    So thank you for reminding me to stop and just breathe for a minute.

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