The other night I watched an Amazon original movie featuring Ben Stiller called Brad’s Status, a cute play on words linking the character, Brad’s status in life and our ever present desire to post our current status on social media. It was not his comparing himself with his more wealthy college friends, but his middle-age musings that got me thinking.
I’ve reinvented myself with new careers more times than most. I’m on career number three, with countless jobs ranging from painter to house-cleaner in between. I used to joke with a friend that had also worn so many hats that we both suffered from Attention Deficit Job Disorder or ADJD, the inability to do anything for a very long period of time. Although I will regret my constant need for change when retirement comes and my pension pales in comparison with thirty-year teachers, I cannot imagine doing any THING for thirty years!
I do realize now, as Brad was doing in the movie, that I am about too old to try one more thing. Middle age is a time when we all have a tendency to do a little too much navel-gazing as counselors like to call it. You know the kind of thinking I’m talking about- the what should I have done, maybe I could’ve - kind of thinking. Second guessing our choices in life.
I’ve been able to change the career portion of my life, and if work was how I defined myself, I might not have felt the freedom to make those changes. I had moments in my work-life that made me feel good- like starting a newspaper and watching it still succeed or having a student come back and thank me for making them write all those stupid essays. But if I own those glory moments, I have to also own the ones that stink- times where I was in-between careers and couldn’t get anyone to see what an awesome employee I would be or being covered in filth and cat hair from cleaning out a basement during one of my ‘I will do anything for some money’ days. Did my smudged, sweaty face define my worth or was it the temporary, polished and proud face that told my value?
When I allow myself navel-gazing time, a requirement of all middle-aged people, I have to set some parameters for myself.
Rule #1- Only a few minutes at a time. Pondering life’s choices can be like wading in a small pool of quicksand- if you stay there too long not only are you stuck, but you wind up sinking.
Rule #2- Some things I cannot change, so therefore why play what if. Some choices were made to the best of your ability at the time. They may have been wrong in the eyes of many, but that is where God’s grace comes in. Instead of “what if”, I say “what now”.
Rule #3- Navel-gazing can allow me to see things that I have done that hurt others and after seeing this, I can try to make things right. After I have asked for forgiveness, I must realize that I have done all I can do and let it go.
Rule #4- Don’t get stuck looking back or looking in and miss what is there to look at now.
I read this quotation that seems to sum it all up:
“Sometimes, take a moment and ponder; yes, take a moment and stir your life just as you stir that delicious stew! Taste it to know how delicious or the otherwise it is! And if there be a need for a change, be swift and tactical.”
This leads to the most important rule for navel-gazing:
Rule #5- If you don’t like what you see when you reflect upon your life quickly make the necessary changes and remember to make the most of today!