What keeps us alive? I do not necessarily mean what keeps us physically alive—that can be done externally by machines—but rather what keeps us feeling alive. Alive, as in, the feeling we would get as kids when we first conquered riding a bicycle or when we were teenagers and the acceptance letter for our dream college arrived. Alive, like when we knew we met the person we would love forever and the feeling when we held our children for the first time.
What happens when we hit the major milestones? What breaks up the monotony of the rinse and repeat routine of work and home?
We fall into the routine because it is efficient. We eat the same types of dinner and go to the same restaurants. We watch the same television shows and go to bed at the same time. Before you realize it a couple of weeks have gone by or an entire month has expired or, god forbid, a whole year passes.
We keep telling ourselves that we are saving for retirement so that we can pursue our passions when we are done working. Why? Why do we have to wait until we are sixty five or older to do something that excites us?
The way we can feel alive again is to break out of the cycle of monotony. We need to make ourselves uncomfortable again. Do you remember the first time you walked into a college classroom, sat down, and wondered if you were really ready for the entire experience? If that was acceptable at eighteen years old why isn’t it acceptable to be that uncomfortable at forty?
It’s being uncomfortable with doing something and conquering that discomfort that allows us to feel like we are growing and changing. It’s the reason that at the tender age of thirty six I took up skiing with my seven year old daughter.
Do you know what is difficult to watch? A middle-age father of two trying to make it down the bunny hill without “yard sale-ing.” Or, having your daughter ask, “Daddy, why did it take you so long to get down the hill?”
In the end, however, I feel better about the day I spend struggling to learn to ski than I would about any other activity I might undertake during the winter. I come back sore and, hopefully, not bruised although I have returned with different parts of my body an unnatural blue color. I may be cold on the lift and scared when I tip over the lip of the run, but I drive home with a smile on my face and something new to work on the next day. Isn’t that what being alive is all about?