We’ve all seen it – the “dream big” or “hustle” culture. Going after your goals and your dreams with tenacity. Create the bucket list and cross the items off of it with a ferocity that means by the time you die you’ve “done” something. But what if your life is big enough?
I turn 40 this week and with that comes a little reflection. Am I doing what I want? Am I getting what I want? Am I where I want to be? Even Google searching “things to accomplish by 40” (or setting up the next 10 years, by 50) and getting the string of articles about things women (or people in general) should do by the time they hit x age and many of them are just silly sounding to me (or unbeknownst to me I’ve already done them). I’ve gone through this inventory a few times in the past year trying to think about what I want or what goals I’m still trying to hit and I am coming up blank.
Yes, I want to travel and see places but that takes time, planning, and money so while I recognize that is an important part of what I want to do I don’t want to drop everything and become a nomad. Mostly because that life doesn’t appeal to me in any way shape or form; I have no desire to live on the road. For some that may be attractive and more power to you if that’s something that you want but for me, at this stage in my life, my comfort is a big piece of why I’m happy.
What about starting your own company? And being your own boss? No, that doesn’t really sound appealing to me either. I have no drive to be an entrepreneur (although in this day and age that might sound like a creative death sentence). Part of it is that I have a day job that I love (most of the time, 20-21 school year not withstanding) that allows me to make an impact; I was lucky to find this job when I was 25 and have stuck with it ever since. I am also not interested in being my own boss. I know me; when working for myself I might be the worst employee ever (see this blog’s consistency for evidence, I blame my obliger tendencies) and when you’re the boss you really only have yourself to blame so what fun would complaining around the water cooler bring you?
I don’t find that my happiness lies in any big or great things that I’m going to check off my list; I find my happiness in the mundane. I find it in the way I live my life on the daily. Are there tweaks that can be made? Of course there are, I’m turning 40 and still have plenty of ages and stages to live through. Life is a dynamic thing so saying that I’ve attained total happiness and nothing will ever change would be a lie but I think I’ve got the “big rocks” covered for the most part.
I had to check in with some of my girlfriends about the idea because I couldn’t decide if I was feeling incredibly lucky or sad that I didn’t have bigger dreams. I was judging myself for not wanting the elusive “more” that articles, podcasts, books, or social media influencers peddle. Most days I recognize that it is a bunch of crap but as I approach this birthday I had to wonder if I was missing out on something? Maybe this is where the mid-life crises come from?
I have a pretty great life. The pandemic has helped me zero in on what my extroverted self needs and the hobbies that really fulfill me versus all the things I did pre-pandemic that just kept me busy and avoiding really doing THE Work. I am not sure I have all the answers but I know the constant hustle or strive for something “bigger, badder, bolder” is not a place of happiness or contentment for me. To me, this is akin to always looking forward to vacation; when it finally happens and you return to your normal life you have to find the next big thing to look forward to and this seems to set me up for a cycle of ups and downs that never really let me enjoy what 99% of my life involves.
I want to walk through my days with a joyful peace that allows me to appreciate what is right in front of me all the time and not some elusive destination that will never actually make me happy in the long run. I don’t want to hustle myself to an empty place that still doesn’t satisfy me; I want to make the incremental changes that refine my life and make it better but I want to enjoy what I have while I have it. I want to use a fine grit sanding paper to make the details cleaner instead of a chainsaw to hack away at it.
Crafting the life I love shouldn’t mean that I’m constantly working my ass off at it; I want to enjoy the fruits of my labor and take comfort in the cozy, lazy, easy life that I wake up ready to live each day and not the hustle and grind that makes every day feel like soul crushing work. I am lucky to have actually crafted a life that I love even if it is small by some people’s definitions. I am living up to no one’s standards but my own and that is true freedom.