Then I caught up to the curve. I had a bit of a mid-life crisis, looked back and realized the party was half over, looked forward and realized that I really am standing at the top of the hill, and all of a sudden, I got it. I got a two handed grip on the fleetingness of life, the precariousness of relationships, the difficulty of balance, the importance of feeding my own soul, and the all-fire, hell and high water, burning passionate need to make damned sure I’m not wasting this time I’ve been given. There’s nothing quite like reaching the potential half way mark to cause a girl to reevaluate, reassess, and recommit to living and breathing her dreams.
Apparently, I am not alone. The piece I wrote a few weeks ago, about your twenties and Setting Yourself Up For The Life You Want, resonated with the younger crowd, as I’d hoped it would. But then there was that guy on Twitter, @rafat:
@SEKeener love this. but can someone write something like this for turning 40 & then resetting your life with travel?
— Rafat Ali (@rafat) January 22, 2014
We think we’re doing all of the “right things,” and then we turn 35, or 40, or 45, or 50, and we realize we’re not where we thought we’d be. We’re not happy. We’re not “living the dream.” We’re “stuck.” And the most frustrating part of all is that everyone around us seems to accept this soul-sucking realization as par for the course and they just keep plodding.
Is this life?
Is this all there is?
Is this what it means to be an adult and a responsible member of society?
I would submit that the answer is, “Yes,” to the vast majority, but a wild and resounding, “HELL NO!” to a growing minority to whom passion means more than security. Are you looking to make that left turn and really live the second half of your life? Rafat, my friend, this one is for you.
Taking Back Control
The upside to forty is that we have resources we didn’t have at twenty: connections, relationships (both business and personal), experience, confidence, perspective, and money. Okay, not everyone has money, but the odds are good that at forty you have more than you did at twenty when all you had to work with was a high school education and only that evenings and weekends gas station job on your resume. At twenty you had the luxury of time and flexibility. At forty, you have the luxury of something to work with as you reinvent yourself.
When my husband quit a six figure job with a division of Apple six years ago, at thirty-seven-years-old, people thought he had lost his mind.
The conversation between his boss and the higher ups went something like this, “What do we have to do to get him to stay? How much is this going to cost?”
“Guys, this is not about the money, he’s following a dream.”
The boss was excited for us. We were reminded that he could come back within two years at the same benefits package, “If it didn’t work out.” We sold a four bedroom house, two cars, and most of what we owned. We packed up four school-aged kids and informed them that “home” was now defined by a big Hilleberg tent and transportation was the two wheeled variety as we set out to ride our bicycles through Europe and North Africa for a year.
That was six years ago. We’re still traveling full time.
Getting on that airplane was like breaking the surface after the deepest free dive you’ve ever made and filling your screaming lungs with air when you were sure you weren’t going to make it. The relief: I can’t even tell you.
It took five months for him to get his soul back. It was another four months before he started working again, this time on his own terms. I can’t even imagine what life would be if we hadn’t made that break; if we hadn’t flipped conventional expectations the bird and pursued our passions instead.
So, How Do You Do It?
How do you go from stuck to pursuing your dreams?
How do you use travel to reset a life in your forties?
How do you let go of everything you thought you wanted to pursue with clarity what you’ve discovered matters most to you?
Great questions. Hard questions. How does anyone do anything? You just do it.
You’ll get to the point where the pain of not living your dream is greater than the comfort of your status quo. You’ll come to understand that every day you waste is gone forever. The fear of end of life regret will begin to wake you in the night. You’ll look at your kids and realize that they’re almost gone and that you can’t get them back. You’ll find your why and it will light a fire in your soul that will either kill you, or transform you like a phoenix from the ashes. You’ll be forced to the brink of a decision that will determine the course of the rest of your life, and you’ll have to make that choice.
I can year you already: “I’ve got a great job, I’ve got a partner and a couple of kids, I’ve got responsibility, debt, commitments, family stuff.” I know. Me too. All of it.
So here’s the question: Are you going to keep trading your very breath for less than the passion of your heart? Are you going to put off the only thing you have: right now? Are you going to trade your soul for things less worthy than the life you were born for? Many will. Many do, every day. I cannot.
The responsibilities, the challenges, the relationships – all of those things are negotiable and manageable. They can be worked into the fabric of your dream. Family life and long term travel are not incompatible. Education and adventure are not mutually exclusive. Career advancement is not necessarily traded away when you choose to restructure your life in such a way that you work to live instead of live to work. We’re making more money now working approximately half the time that we used to. We know people who make far more than we do and work far less than we do as they travel. It can be done.
Can you drop it all like a hot rock at forty and just buy a plane ticket to somewhere? Well you could, but it might have catastrophic consequences. You have a career, a home, and a family. You have responsibilities and debts, perhaps. These are all things that you’ve chosen; they are things that you’ll have to work through and around and with as you redesign your life.
Grown-ups take responsibility. That’s what we do. For ourselves, for those around us, for what will come after us. Reinventing yourself at forty doesn’t mean that you destroy your family, declare bankruptcy, quit saving for retirement, and become a drain on society.
Having the courage to really live your dreams is a gift to the world. It is a gift to your partner and your children. It is a gift to those who look up to you in your career world.
Where Do We Start?
You have to work with what you’ve got.
Contact me, I’ll hook you up with a mind blowing array of forty-somethings who are rocking the world. They’re my friends, and they’ll inspire your socks off. Community is key. It’s too easy to give up on your dream without other folks cheering you on, screaming at you to RUN and leading by example.
Could we do it? Yes. Would I rather have had my dream and an epic crash and burn story to start over with, or would I rather have safety and soul-sucking security? Everyone will answer that differently, but I suspect you know what my answer is. The reality, of course, is that you’re unlikely to be reduced to the absolute bottom because you’re forty, you’ve got brains, experience, grit, determination and a skill set that can be repurposed if you really need it. You’re not twenty with just “gas station” on your resume.
Take a deep, deep, cleansing breath; now dive deep, swim hard, and then harder, down to the very bottom, through all of the things that must be sorted, organized and restructured. Touch the bottom, feel the depth of what you’ve created in your life so far and then take that hard left turn toward the surface and kick with all of your might. Your lungs are going to burn. Your muscles are going to scream. Your head is going to feel like it’s exploding, but when you break the surface and you take that deep breath, it’s going to feel like morning, it’s going to feel like coming alive, because you’ll have broken free from the depths and you’ll be floating on the surface of the world.
Talk to me, people: Where are you at forty (ish)? Where do you want to be? What’s stopping you? How can I help? Tweet me!
Need more inspiration to get you out on the road? Check out the following articles and resources:
- How to Build a Passion Driven Life
- Setting Yourself Up for the Life You Want
- Challenge Yourself and Do Hard Things
- Finding Pleasure in Simple Moments