Some days I feel really old. Sometimes I feel old hanging out with people my own age, and some days (recently) I feel old when i am talking to people in their 50’s and 60’s who have defined their identity and sole purpose on this planet by becoming footwear experts! I really believe age is much more that just a number and I think there is some quote about ‘with experience comes wisdom?’…and usually you think of age coming with wisdom, and since I have had quite a few experiences in my twenties…maybe I am old.
Last week while I was sitting on a park bench after a run, I was just contemplating life and watching UNC students in their cap and gowns walk to their graduation ceremony at the beautiful Chapel Hill campus. I thought to myself….what if I really was old and had done something really important or inspirational with my life, and I was asked to speak at this graduation and give some advice to these kids embarking on life’s journey. What would I have to say to them…right now…at this point of my life?
I would tell all theses ‘kids’ that your life right now is a blank canvas…make sure you paint it many different colors! Don’t let it be boring or monochromatic…Make your life’s work interesting, something that people want to look at, something that people are drawn to. You are an amazing artist and you have every color imaginable at your disposal to paint your story with, you can make your life as interesting, colorful, diverse and multidimensional as you want…and you can also (probably copy your neighboring life/artists work) draw a boring grey line across your life canvas and call that living. I think I would actually give a wild crazy, on stage painting demonstration of this…for those visual learners! So explore, be curious, go on wild adventures, travel, read, do some really stupid things (just remember to learn from them!) educate yourselves…learn about new cultures, learn about new experiences, have your passions and hobbies but don’t be afraid to try new ones…learn about people, care about them, spend quality time with them…find out what makes them tick. Never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone…
A couple days ago on my way home from a work trip I took the scenic route to explore the mountains of the southeast. And I discovered that The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most beautiful winding byways in America, the route ended up taking me about three times longer that I had planned, because I had to stop and photo bomb every overlook, I found out by reading the tourist informational signs and talking to a local that these mountains are still being mined for quartz and had historically been mined for emeralds. So the steps that had been carved out of the rocks on the little howlie waterfall hikes were all white and pink marbley quartz…( I think that dwarves from middle earth actually carved out the steps…) By taking time to stop and smell the roses(or look at the rocks) on my drive…I made my day, my week, my life a little more colorful. I also realized that if someone took time to carve steps, make a trail or put up a informational sign…someone took the time to say ‘hey this is cool…you should experience it too!’…then you really should go walk on those steps, to that trail and read that sign! Otherwise its kinda rude and disrespectful…whoa that sounded weird, maybe I’m spending too much time with myself! This would have been a rambling size track in my brilliantly inspirational speech!
My mom and I were just talk about the alarmingly growing number of suicides in her community, and discussing what is it that makes people kill themselves. I know every case is different and there are many, many reasons people want to escape this life…but I think if you have a true love, zest and curiosity and excitement for life, killing yourself and just getting life over with would not seem like a viable option. If we only use one color from our life paint box…and do the same thing over and over again, but expect it to excite and thrill us like it once did, then we are living the definition of insanity. If we live in the exact same environment, and have a monotonous routine that never changes…day after day and year after year…well people who spend their lives in prison and even solitary confinement have similar experiences of a this unchanging repetition. I think we build up our comfort zones with the things that we are familiar with, and as life becomes more busy with jobs and bills and families and stress…our comfort zone becomes more and more comfortable, and we end up relying more and more on a familiar routine to just survive. Our lives start to become very one dimensional and one colored…and I think this does certainly add to the huge issue of depression in out society today. One of my favorite quotes is “life begins at the end of your comfort zone”, now I don’t think we have to go running off to Africa to work in rehabilitation homes for child soldiers or go climb Mt. Everest, to get out of our comfort zone (but it would be pretty cool if we did…it could be as simple as picking up a real book, or even watching a documentary, talking to a strange neighbor about their life, teaching your kid about other cultures…heck even trying a different beer or wine!
In the sermon I heard today, the pastor read an excerpt from a book written by a family who once lived very affluent lives here in Chapel Hill but were called to give up everything and were sent as missionaries to Thailand. It read…” We were called to give him our comfort zone, so we could find that lasting comfort only comes from living in the center of His will.” I think if we leave our minds and heart open to the will of the Master Creator…our lives wont have a chance to be that boring grey line!
And that would be my speech to all those ‘young’ graduates!