We come into this life to experience it. We seek out the kind of experiences we desire. Sometimes they come easy, and sometimes we have to put in some effort to get where we want to go.
Think for example of the clichéd home-town hero football star and the cheerleader, king and queen of the prom, the anointed ones who elicited adoration, envy or both in everyone around them, the ones voted most likely to stay together, like, forever.
On the other hand, assume a classmate who is an acne-riddled geek with a nervous stutter gets none of this attention in high school. Maybe he gets recognized for his intelligence in college, but he still isn’t really successful on a social level. Then one day he’s tinkering in his parent’s garage and serendipitously creates a technological breakthrough. But he still he has to put in effort, working day and night for a couple of years, getting a few friends to help out with the promise of shares. Then suddenly one day his technological breakthrough is recognized as the NEXT BIG THING !!! Investors want to give him billions, his face is in every newspaper and magazine (the acne has cleared by now).
For the first time in his life he is popular. The man who couldn’t get a date to the prom now has women phoning him, beautiful, intelligent women. His social barometer goes from sub-arctic, where it’s been stuck since his youth, to muy caliente overnight. He suddenly finds himself standing on a penthouse terrace, Champaign in hand, a Hollywood starlet on his left shoulder, the most talented and sexiest neurosurgeon in the history of medicine on his right, his head in the stars and the world at his feet. It’s everything he ever dreamed of, and as he stands there drinking it all in he thinks…
“I’m bored now. What’s next?”
So he sells off his interest in the NEXT BIG THING, vacates his penthouse, kisses the women goodbye, books a five-star hotel in Tahiti (He’s keeping the money. He might seem crazy, but he’s not stupid) where he can contemplate life for a while and think about where it might take him next. Or, more accurately, where he might take his life because one thing he’s learned in his time here is that it’s up to him to make his life whatever it is going to be. He learned in high school that, like most people, only the rare few get to have a charmed life where they, as a natural matter of course, get to be King and Queen of the prom without having to work for any of it.
He checks in, wanders down to the poolside bar, and orders an umbrella drink. The bartender looks familiar – they’re about the same age. He strikes up a conversation with the bartender and, after a few incorrect guesses, realizes this is the guy. He’s the football star, the prom king, the anointed one. “What happened?” he asks the bartender.
“Eh, I don’t know. Once I graduated life just seemed to be over. There was no excitement. One day I was getting all-state football awards and the next I was working in my father’s used car lot, with 40 or so years to go. Debra (A.K.A. prom queen) and I soon got bored with our lives and each other. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I packed my bags and just went, with no plan. Deb was already gone anyway, in her heart at least. I’m kind of working my way across the world now. It’s not dull anyway, there’s always something to see. Last I heard Deb was studying shamanism somewhere in Colorado “
In an epiphany (I’ll have one for him, in case he misses it) the bartender’s former classmate realizes he spent years of his life competing against an ideal that was an illusion. He is now a millionaire, the hometown hero of his youth is his bartender, and both of them are disillusioned with what they once considered success. He smiles ruefully and says, “Remember what I was like in high school”? The bartender doesn’t. Why would he? He was a football star and this guy was just another acne-riddled geek. Oh well.
What can we learn from this story?
We come into this life to experience it. We seek and strive for the experiences we desire. We have those experiences and we may enjoy them a great deal. We become familiar with them, they become routine and we start to get bored. I don’t care if Joe the bin collector or Batman (the good one with Christian Bale). If you do the same thing the same way over and over again, day in day out, you are going to get fed up.
This is not to say that you should all ditch your lives every few years with no consideration for anyone else. But there are many ways to change, externally and internally, moving deeper as opposed to moving further away. Even small changes can keep life fresh for you, help you grow, and keep you from stagnating. When you try to avoid change you are really cutting yourself off from life, because life is change and there is always movement. There is always something to be released and something to be embraced. Something to leave and somewhere to go, even if it’s only on the scale of a new book or a new barber, moving house to a better location, moving your mind from couch potato status to a night course. Like a shark, movement is required to truly stay alive. It’s only natural.