Ever Wonder Who You Could Have Been?

The interesting thing about growing older is when you reach the point at which you can hear the clock ticking, not in the sense that death is imminent but an awareness of time.

Maybe it comes when you recognize you have been in the working world longer than you were a student or maybe it is triggered by something else.

I don’t know if I can pinpoint one moment in my life as having triggered it, I just know there are some moments where I take a hard look at what I am doing and ask if this is what I want my future to look like.

That is because the goal is to live hard in a way so that whenever I take my final breath I’ll smile because I know I lived a life worth living.

I figure that stopping to think about these things combined with a willingness to ask hard questions will make it more likely to live that way, but I don’t take it as a guarantee either.

Ever Wonder Who You Could Have Been?

You can attribute part of the reason for writing this post to have been inspired by So, Seemingly, Google Thinks I’m Dead and some of the comments.

I suppose it is worth noting this is a significant part of why I believe it is important to offer a commenting section on a blog.

Not only does it provide another tool for building community it can often be the thing that stimulates thought, growth and action.

Anyhoo, that particular post and the banter in the comments reminded me about how there have been moments in my life where I have thought about what it would be like to be a tenured professor at a university.

Ask me to provide more details and I’ll tell you my imagination sees me teaching a few courses about something that I am passionate about but the bulk of my time will be spent on my research.

In my head I see it as being sort of similar to the life we see Indiana Jones living. Granted it is a movie and Dr. Jones is a character but who is to say it is impossible for reality to imitate fiction.

It is not particularly hard to obtain a fedora, bullwhip and pistol, Arks and Grails might be a slightly different story though.

The Dream Is The Important Thing

I have had this conversation with people who have rolled their eyes and told me that having a good imagination can create problems because it trips your focus up but I don’t buy into that.

The dream is almost more important than the willingness to take action because without that dream you have nothing to build upon.

It reminds me of an exchange from Batman Begins:

Henri Ducard: Your parents’ death was not your fault.
[Bruce attacks Ducard with his sword]
Henri Ducard: It was your father’s.
[Bruce furiously attacks Ducard, but is easily defeated]
Henri Ducard: Anger does not change the fact that your father failed to act.
Bruce Wayne: The man had a gun!
Henri Ducard: Would that stop you?
Bruce Wayne: I’ve had training!
Henri Ducard: The training is nothing! The will is everything!
[Ducard bests Bruce once again]
Henri Ducard: The will to act.

It may be a line from a movie, but the will to act is of paramount importance.

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Never Wonder Who You Could Have Been?

Some years ago during a trip from Los Angeles to New York the guy sitting next to me told me that his goal was to never look upon his life with regret.

He said “I never wonder who I could have been” but I wondered if he really meant/believed it.

I don’t believe anyone gets through life without regrets or second thoughts about the choices we make. Ask my son about that one and he’ll tell you he has gotten an earful on it.

Those questions about who we are, what we are and why we believe as we do are important and they change over time.

Who I am in my forties is not quite who I was in my twenties. There are similarities but experience has led me down certain paths and they have enabled me to figure out what direction I want to go in.

So sometimes I think about who I am now and who I want to be. Sometimes I look back upon choices and think that given a second chance I would do some things differently.

Maybe the biggest difference between that twenty-something and me now is the ticking of the clock and the knowledge that life can change in a minute.

Call it a deeper respect for time and an effort not to waste it because you never know how much you get.


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  1. T Hopkins August 22, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    I didn’t foresee any of this coming about in my life. Not the good, the bad, or the ugly. And I thought I’d had it all planned out on some kind of life map. I had dreams and goals and ideas and desire. But none of the things I imagined ever came to pass. I got a completely different life. And truthfully, I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, my life is full with a real family, something I probably always needed. And some opportunities have presented themselves–things I never could have fathomed. But on the other hand, the dreams and goals I had half my life ago still remain unfulfilled, and I am having trouble letting them go. I still feel that they are viable and relevant. But with the responsibilities of family, a mortgage, and all that entails, not much time or money is left for the creative aspects. That saddens me, and admittedly, sometimes I resent it. Then I wonder what life would have been like for me if the journey had gone differently. Would the realization of those dreams have been as fulfilling as I had imagined, or would I have felt there was something missing in my life then, too? Sometimes I feel like I didn’t choose my life; it just happened to me. But sometimes I feel like what we end up with is what we intrinsically needed. Needing and wanting are not always one and the same, though. The grass always does seem greener on the other side, and that’s probably human nature. And choices are made not always out of what is best for us but what we think is best for everyone else.
    You might call it some sort of mid-life crisis, when one reflects on his or her journey thus far and starts feeling like “Oh my gosh I’d better do something grandiose with my life and fast, because time is running out!” In my mid-40s, I’ve never had this much of a hunger to learn, to do, to experience. I feel like I was wandering around lost for much of it up to now, just reacting rather than acting, and it’s time to catch up.
    I was just sitting here thinking how, inevitably, every generation of parents tells their kids, “Learn from my mistakes so you don’t have to learn the hard way.” We determine to make better choices, to set better examples, to be stronger, to accomplish more, but as John Lennon once sang to his own son, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. I guess if the journey was fun along the way, the destination doesn’t matter as much. Ask me again in a couple more decades. If I’m still around, I might have a little more wisdom to offer. 🙂

    • Joshua August 23, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      I have wondered on and off throughout the past year if the mid forties are a natural time for people to hear the clock ticking and to feel that hunger to try and do the things that we think we really need to do or if it is a man-made thing.

      The older I get the easier it is to accept that life is never exactly what we expected or planned for and that sometimes this means it is better or at least a pleasant surprise. But the converse is sometimes true as well.

      I don’t know if there is a balance to be found, but there has to be some sort of place where we find peace of mind with our choices, at least for a while.

      • T Hopkins August 23, 2015 at 10:13 pm

        I wonder that, too. Hindsight really is much clearer. It’s easier to look back at a time when I thought I was just losing it and say, “Oh…now I get it. My clock was ticking. I was blindly responding to some inner need to go ahead and procreate already.” I wouldn’t trade my kids for the world. This clock (the mid-life thing) is a bit different, but it has similar symptoms, like going inexplicably bonkers over certain things. I think more than anything, it’s the need for each of us to feel like we have not merely existed and passed the time while here, but truly lived, thrived, and made some kind of difference in the world. I know for some that happens much, much later in life, but since none of us know when our time is up, it does put the pressure on to deliver–something. If only for our own peace of mind. Does that make sense?

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