Sunday, June 13, 2004
Live gently, enjoy the journey, get a hobby
When I was fresh out of college a friend of
mine - he was in his 60s at the time - told me that, a few aches
and pains aside, he didn't feel any different at his advancing age
than he did when he was in his 20s. I couldn't understand how that
could be, given that the four decades or so that had passed were
an eternally long time.
Now that I am in my mid-40s, and my oldest
child is going into high school, I can understand what my friend
was saying. Really, events that took place 30 years ago sometimes
feel as if they took place last weekend. I don't have many aches
and pains yet, but I definitely understand how quickly decades,
and an entire lifetime, can pass.
On that realistic note, here are 10 suggestions
to make the most of your post-graduation life:
1. Treat every moment with relish.
Do not waste your time. Have fun, of course.
Do not be dour either. But do not tarry in pursuing your dreams,
lest you wake up one morning late in life wondering where the time
has gone and why you never did anything that matters. A book for
Russian orthodox monks reminds them that the best way to live a
holy life is to remember that life is finite, that they will eventually
die. One needn't be a monk to learn from that profound wisdom.
2. Be intellectually curious.
You should search for truth and be willing
to change your mind when confronted with new facts. I saw a license-plate
holder the other day that said, "Truth, not tolerance." Actually,
that saying is half-right. Tolerance in and of itself is empty,
a politically correct passion that loses sight of the quest for
truth. But one ought to seek truth and be tolerant at the
same time, lest one become self-righteous and arrogant.
3. Don't let your ideology get in
the way of your love of justice.
Too many times, I've seen people so committed
to a particular point of view that they are unwilling to deviate
from it, even if it's the right thing to do. For instance, people
who are "tough on crime" often want to throw the book at any criminal,
even in a situation where leniency is in order. Softening up, even
when the facts demand it, is hard to do for people unwilling to
backslide on their particular outlook. My suggestion: Always do
the right thing; you can work on the ideological ramifications at
4. Live gently.
I know the saying, "Life's short, play hard."
But, really, that's a foolish viewpoint. You should make time for
play, and you should be willing to work and even play hard. But
you want to think about what you do before you do it. I like the
road sign when one drives into the state of Maryland: "Drive Gently."
You want to live gently, too. You don't want to irrevocably damage
your life or someone else's through carelessness. Accidents happen,
but less so to people who are careful about the way that they live.
I'm not saying to avoid taking well-selected chances, but a life
well-lived is one well aware of the perils of rash behavior.
5. Find love, get married, have kids.
This used to be standard advice - so much so
that generations have come to ignore it. Granted, marriage and child-rearing
isn't for everyone. Certainly, one is better off single than being
locked into a bad marriage. But if you find true love, don't hesitate.
As I said before, life is short. There's nothing more fulfilling
than taking this sometimes tiring journey as a family.
6. Figure out what you want to do
in life as early as possible.
It can take years to develop a career. Success
and financial rewards usually don't happen overnight. I know someone
who continually changes his mind about what he wants to do, and
as such never gets off the first, most frustrating rung of each
career ladder. The sooner you decide, and point your compass in
the right direction, the more quickly you will find fame, fortune,
or at least enjoy what you do every day. Because, well, you'll be
doing a lot of it.
7. Enjoy the journey.
It's trite, perhaps, but important. You should
have a destination. But too often, people get to their destination,
then immediately pick a new destination. They never enjoy the ride,
but only dream about the great things that will happen when they
get to a new place. They live life disappointed. But those who like
the car trip as much as the final vacation spot are among the happiest
folk you'll meet.
8. Follow the 10 Commandments or
the Golden Rule.
These are time-tested truths, no matter your
particular faith. An early boss of mine, in his exaggerated West
Virginia accent, used to credit all good things to "cleeeeean living."
He was pretty much right. Don't forget it. An honest life is a reward
9. Develop a hobby.
If only I had followed this advice. I have
few hobbies, few skills outside of work. This is a source of endless
frustration. Here's where I learn from my daughters, who are always
playing their instruments or tending to their pets or riding horses
or playing sports. Nothing clears the work-addled mind like a good,
active hobby. P.S.: TV, video games and the like do NOT count as
10. Live an examined life.
You know the saying: An unexamined life is
a dangerous thing. You know people who don't examine their lives,
but see the world entirely from their own, narrow perspective. Christian
apologist Malcolm Muggeridge wrote that we all live in our "self-enclosed
prisons." The best way out is to look inward, to examine in all
honesty the things we do well and to correct the things we don't
do so well.