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NOT RAISING THE BAR, JUST HOLDING IT UP AND LOOKING PAST IT
Are you getting what you want out of life? Do you even know what you want to be when you grow up?

Have you settled?

When you were a child and the future was open wide, did you fix your dreaming eye upon a goal and never waver? There were so many choices then, so many things we could become, so many things we could do, so many places we could go. What items do you add to your list when you've crossed off the ones you scrawled in crayon once upon a time? Some people seem to know instinctively what they will do with their lives from an early age; others flounder forever with no direction.

When did you figure it out, if you did? Are you still heading toward that goal or have you reached it? Has your journey taken a swerve that you didn't expect?

I never had a plan, but I was never a dreamer either. I was content to bob along, moving forward if not toward any particular goal. I got lucky, I think, not once, not even twice but several times over. I'm in a good place, with a good person, and a good life. The choices I made led me here though I don't think all of them were conscious or even agonizing. I think, when I think about it at all, that my only goals were to have a good life, a relatively easy one and to fill it as much as possible with joy and laughter and friendship. It's not over yet, but I think I've managed to chalk off those low-bar ambitions.

I'm not saying that I didn't make any bad choices, and I'm not saying that I didn't have any jinks in the path that my life has taken because I have, but overall I think it's been pretty smooth sailing. Now I find myself wondering if that is all there is. Shouldn't I be doing more with my life? Is raising 2 healthy happy children enough? Is keeping a relationship together for this long enough? Shouldn't I want more?

I have a good job but I don't want to climb higher on any corporate ladder. I have a nice house and I don't want to move* because I love it so much. I don't want more kids, and I'm not particularly interested in charity work and my idea of making the world a better place is to live the best life I can, while being as generous and kind as I can manage without compromising my principles. But sometimes I look around me and see what other people are doing and what some of my own friends are doing and think: I could do more. Is this all there is?

I don't want to mess with the status quo, basically. Some days that's enough. And some days it leaves me feeling as if I'm cheating both myself and the world of something I don't even know I have to offer.

You get what you settle for, it's said. Have I settled or am I just getting started?

*That's a lie. My military brat-brain DOES want to move. I would consider moving if I didn't have to leave my house. Or if I could take it with me.

Makes You Think: One Cubic Foot
 contemplative
mood: contemplative
music: The Foundations—Baby Now That I've Found You


Comments

That's pretty heavy for a snowy Wednesday. My answer would be too long for the comments section but I'll get you one after I've mulled it over a little more.

I would be interested to read your response! And no comment is too long for my comments section (see below :D

From Megsie

Wow. How did you go into my head and pull out the thoughts and get them into words? It kinda freaks me out. I have been thinking a lot about my life, what I want, what makes me happy, what I should strive for... and yes, the thought of is this it? Should I be striving for something else? Am I HAPPY? Or, just content? I have always wanted to be a teacher. I loved being a teacher. I miss being a teacher, sometimes. I had ambitions beyond the classroom as well as in the classroom. Those ambitions are still exciting to me, but.... But. I don't really want to go back to the classroom. NOT because of the teaching or the students, but because of the other stuff. Politics, both inside education and governmental. Competition. Administration. Committees. Standards. Testing. No Child Left Behind. It always feels like an uphill battle. So, if you figure anything out, let me know. I am sure it is exactly what is rattling around in my own head, but I just can't capture it.

Re: From Megsie

I think you have to take the bad with the good, when it comes to a job...no job is perfect...but you have to figure out what you love to do and do it. But all those bad things you talked about? They're everywhere, in every job and every career. You just have to be a duck about them as much as you can: let them roll off your back.

(Anonymous)
Joy here

Interesting question to ponder at midnight! I didn't have big dreams as a kid. I went along to get along. I remember looking at memory books in HS and just staring at the question of what I'd be doing in twenty years. I had no concept! It's like I thought my world was flat- that in any minute I would be dropping off a cliff somewhere. lol NOT that I thought I'd jump off one, just that when as far as I could see, that would be it. (More of a retrospect view, not what I could have expressed when I was young.)

But then, after a failed attempt at college, I went traveling for a living. Talk about exciting! I wish I had it do over. Did that for almost six years.

Then I moved to WI and stayed for 17 years! And left last year to go to Grad school. Another surprise! Did not think that would happen!

So, if I could have dreamed exciting adventures, those would be it. BUT there is part of my life that is just not complete. I wasn't meant to live it alone. I have a lot to give, a lot to say that goes un-done and un-said. So, now, I guess my dream is to connect the dots and find small but big dreams.

Re: Joy here

You've not just swerving, you're WINGING it! :D Amazing to think that you traveled for a living for so long...what exactly was that all about? You were getting paid for it?

(Anonymous)
Re: Joy here

I was a traveling photographer for JcPenney's. I went from store to store, set up the camera equipment and took children and family photographs. I drove a company car (first a station wagon, then a SUV- the co. had small pinto wagons before I signed on), stayed at hotels paid by the co. and of course gas was paid too- through vouchers! Lifetouch (my co.) was the best to work for- Walmart, Olan Mills people have to have their own vehicles.

It was so fun, being in my 20s, on my own, traveling all around- midwest, southwest and part of the south. Okay, the south was only LA and TN, but still!

For the last part, I had an apt. and I traveled to and from the stores, which was not nearly as fun! But it was exciting and I took it for granted!

Re: Joy here

WOW, what a cool job! I thought the photographers at Penney's were there in the studios full time...I didn't know they traveled.

(Anonymous)
Re: Joy here

They don't travel. Well, let me back up. When I left in 1992, the traveling division was downsizing. The mangers went from being mangers, to district mangers with a budget, to being eliminated. The district managers were now in charge of any traveling photographers in their district. But now, I think, all of the traveling is over. I don't think anyone travels to stores. That was only to stores that didn't have permanent Photography Studios. The traveling division was to allow Penney's to have nation-wide photography. Even when I was a traveling photographer, they had that.

So, long story short, there is only studios now. But it was so fun! I saw the country, I was in North Dakota when it was 10 below- Devil's Lake! hehehee I left northern California right before the 1989 earthquake and the store I would have been at was hit and had to close for a while (not sure if how bad it was damaged). I was genuinely glad not to have been there! And I just left Tx when baby Jessica fell in the well. I felt connected to the story because I'd been near Plano.

I truly think the best part was all of the many, many people I met, nameless now, but still remembered in small and big ways.

Okay, I just wrote a chapter in your blog! :)

(Anonymous)

Oh I am not even close to where I want to be or where I thought my life would be at this age and I tell you that can be very tough and depressing at times. :(

But I try to be positive. So - life didn't turn out the way I had pictured it. But maybe it can become something else instead...

I'm taking baby steps. :)

As usual, love your post!

/Mia

http://mias.blogg.se

Life can DEFINITELY become something else instead, and that something can be great! Being positive and taking those steps is the most important thing. Dreams may change, but they don't need to be abandoned.

In some ways, I have an opposite approach to life -- I've had ambitions as long as I can remember, but they change as often as the weather. For "When You Grow Up Day" in second grade, I dressed (simultaneously) as a ballerina, a mom, a farmer, and a painter. I changed my major in college twice before ending up with English, and I had two different graduate school plans fall through before realizing that I don't want to be a professor. Hopefully, all this is leading toward knowing what I actually want to do... and if not, at least I enjoy the spontaneity of a nomad mind. Usually. Okay, sometimes. Like Meg pointed out, contentment isn't the same as happiness, but it's much more constant. All the same, it doesn't hurt to reevaluate where your life is going from time to time. (Generous and kind are pretty great places to find yourself.)

I would LOVE to see a photo of your 2nd grade "When You Grow Up Day" get-up: what a hoot that must have been! And you are right, and so is Megsie: thanks for your thoughtful words.

At some point during my angsty teenage years I asked my mother in despair, "But what do you want to do with your life?!" My mother sat contently sipping her tea, looked at me, and replied, "This."

I am a boat rocker and an adventure seeker. I am a restless soul always wanting more. I could never understand how she could be so content to have a simple job, a loving marriage, a modest house and a quiet but good life. But, as I grow older, I get it more.

If that's what you want, it's not settling. The key is figuring out if that's what you really want.

This past year I have grown less ambitious. I am content to spend the weekend in my pj's watching old movies and drinking another cup of coffee with Tess. If I achieve nothing else in my life, I know that I have had this, and this is pretty damn good.

There's a song by Acda en de Munnik, "Wennen aan jou" ("Getting used to you"/ "Taking you for granted") that describes this feeling quite well (though, of course, a bit gets lost in translation):

Ik kan niet alles
Maar dit wat ik nu doe kan ik erg goed
Ik kijk naar jou, hoe je slaapt
En hoe verdomde mooi je 't doet


I can't do everything
But this what I'm doing right now, I do it well
I look at you and how you sleep
And how fucking beautifully you do that


Ik kan niet alles, dat geeft niet
Dit is al een heleboel
Laat mij maar liggen naast jou
Dit is wat ik kan
En dit kan ik goed
Dit is wat ik wil
En dit is al wat ik moet

I can't do everything, but that doesn't matter
This is already quite a lot
I lie next to you
And this I can do
And I can do it well
And this is what I want
And this is what I must


Ik kan niet alles
Maar dit wat ik nu doe kan ik erg goed
Ik denk aan alles wat fout ging vandaag
En hoe het beter moet

I can't do everything
But this what I'm doing now I do very well
And I think about everything that went wrong today
And how it needs to be better


Morgen beter misschien
Morgen kijken of het leuker kan
Soms vergeet ik ineens
Waarom ik alles wil
Want dat wil ik wel
Maar ik hou het niet vol
Want alles went veel te snel

Tomorrow will maybe be better
Let's see if tomorrow can be better
Sometimes I forget at once
Why I want everything
Because I do want it
But I can't keep it up
And I take everything for granted so quickly


Ik wil niet wennen aan jou
Laat me nooit, nooit, wennen aan jou

I don't want to take you for granted
Let me never ever take you for granted


Ik kan niet alles
Maar dit wat ik nu doe doe ik erg graag
Ik doe het licht uit, kruip naast je
't Was wel weer genoeg vandaag

I can't do everything
But this what I'm doing now I love to do
I turn off the light and press my body next to yours
That was more than enough for today


Vertel me een keer, mijn lief
Wat was er ook alweer zo leuk aan mij
Soms vergeet ik het ineens
Dat ik zo van je hou
En niet meer zonder kan
Als alles, alles went
Straks wen ik hier ook nog aan

Tell me again, my love
What was there so special about me
Sometimes I forget it all at once
That I love you so
As everything becomes normal, everything becomes expected
And before I know it I'll take this for granted too


Ik wil niet wennen aan jou
Laat me nooit, nooit, wennen aan jou

I don't want to take you for granted
Let me never ever take you for granted


Je went aan alles
Al het lieve, kwade en het leuke bovendien

You get you used to everything
Al the sweet, bitter and especially the wonderful things



Musical accompaniment:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE2DMSJA6Kc&feature=related

"If that's what you want, it's not settling. The key is figuring out if that's what you really want."—wise words, indeed. Thank you for your thoughtful response and for that SONG!! Am enjoying it immensely, and wishing I spoke Dutch. :) Thanks for the translation.

Your life so far has been like a winding country road, one curve leading to the next. Mine has been more like a trip to Disney World where I hop onto a new ride every few years. My high school years were Space Mountain. I joined the Navy - a roller coaster ride. I got married and had a baby and she became a teenager - It's A Small World. I got divorced and went a little crazy - Haunted House. Then I met Björn and eventually moved to Sweden - the first few years were like being in a giant maze or House of Mirrors. Now things have settled into a lovely routine of peace and quiet, like when you take a break from all the rides and go see a show in the air-conditioning.

Who knows - maybe I've actually found my way out of the park and am on a winding road?

I love that imagery and think you hit the nail on the head. The idea of you living your life like a day at Disney is hilarious! I think of you as such a calm person, who lives totally in the moment...it's funny to think of you as a crazy lady changing lives like rides. :)

Such a wonderful contemplation and the comments are rocking your thoughts along nicely. Bobbing along in my canoe of life, I have not been much of a goal setter, but have always looked on the positive side of things, and strive for the best in life that leads to contentment and fulfillment. If both of those lead to happiness, then you're on the right track. It's the looking ahead that has been on my thoughts lately. Having passed the 45 mark, I can look at what has been, what is, and what is to come. What is to come has been the main focus with the all important fulcrum of 'what is in the now' playing the biggest part. If any of that makes sense! Most importantly, you've pointed out your accomplishments, and that I admire greatly. A career, a loving family, outrageous life experiences...nothing low bar about that! One more comment that I found on my calendar: Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

It makes perfect sense...it's nice in a way to be at place where I can both look back and look forward. I tend to live in the future; living in the present moment is harder than one thinks :)

Settling is not all bad.

I have recently been pondering (during my shower and walking meditations) something about stages of life that sort of touches the concept of settling.
I've been thinking about striving when I was younger and how important that seemed and still seems to my young adult kidlets and others who I observe.
I have been thinking about how now, much more important than striving seems to be acceptance. I guess acceptance and settling sound a lot alike to me. On the one hand there is the negative connotation of settling, as in settling for less than, etc. And then there is the positive connotation of settling, as in simply accepting things as they are and making the best of them.
Making the best of what I have, am, & the situations I find myself in; all this seems to be a part of the acceptance of this stage of my life.
And if I am honest with myself, there is still a little striving, but it is of a different nature than when I was growing a family, a household, a life, rather than now when I am merely licking the frosting off what I have created. I continue to strive in relationship to friends and family members for example.
I don't mean to sound old here and all used up (my gawd, I'm only 56.) I mean to sound happy at the onset of the "golden years" and the prospect of enjoying a lot of golden for a long time. I want to spend plenty of time licking that frosting as I spent plenty of time and energy making it. At times I wish there was a little more frosting, but I have watched people spending so much energy continuing to make frosting that they forget to enjoy what bit they already have.

SO, yes, "You get what you settle for," but only you can know when it it a positive to settle (time to lick the frosting) and when it is time to continue striving.

Now I'm going to go ahead and read the rest of your entry and the comments. I've only read the first three questions, and the last near the comment window. *chuckle*

Re: Settling is not all bad.

Now you've made me want CAKE. :D

Great answer and you are an inspiration!!

Re: Settling is not all bad.

With frosting I hope!

(Anonymous)

I really like this post - I've never had goals really - just projects, and you know, those suit me just fine. I'm pretty happy where I'm at right now even without those life goals.

-Heather

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