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Posts tagged ‘life lessons’

Pluripotency Lost: The Suckiest Part of Growing Up

My younger sister and I were commiserating the other day about how life seems to be getting increasingly difficult and depressing as time marches on. Though our respective strengths and staminas have developed over the years in the face of new challenges and allowed us both to cope fairly successfully, life has inevitably lost some of its sparkle as the harshness of reality has become more and more tangible.

There is so much lost in the process of growing up: the security and safety and companionship of family, freedom from financial responsibility and worry, the black-and-white simplicity of a childish worldview…

Perhaps the most painful thing, at an underlying level, is the loss of possibility. Like an embryonic stem cell that may yet differentiate into a nerve, blood, intestinal, or ANY cell type of the body – you possess as a child the potential for everything. When you are a kid, EVERYTHING is possible. You can have infinite plans for your life – marriage and children, traveling the world, writing a book, dancing, exploring outer space, curing cancer, doing something about world hunger…in the future these things are not mutually exclusive. In your imagination and dreaming, they can all live simultaneously. You can be and do everything you’ve ever wanted to.

But in real time, sadly, you must make choices. In choosing one path, you must leave others untravelled…and there is no going back. Time keeps moving forward. Once a stem cell is dedicated as, say, muscle, it loses its pluripotency. A muscle cell is what it must be for life. And it is the same with us.

And that is hard.

As time drops away behind us, dreams and possibilities do too. As much as we like to tell ourselves that we are free to go and do and be anything we want to, at any time, the truth is that we can’t. At the age of almost-thirty, my becoming, say, a professional dancer is no longer in the cards. It’s just not going to happen.

So, as I sit here at another crossroads in my life, trying to decide in which direction to head career-wise, it is making me think hard about what I really want to be doing…and what I am giving up in choosing that thing. And it makes me a little anxious and sad.

On the other hand, that is just a part of life; that we must define ourselves and actually embrace something – ONE thing – fully and completely is a part of the beauty and bittersweetness of it all. We must choose our color and become one real, bright thread in the tapestry of life…and learn how to find joy in whatever role we adopt and whatever place we land.

Because, as we all know, the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill, and no life path is perfect.

Karl Barth, an early 20th century theologian, once said, “Joy in this world is always in spite of something. It is a defiant ‘nevertheless’ against all bitterness, resentment and despair.”

And I think that is true.

I look at my grandparents who are nearing the end of their lives, and find that they are some of the the most patient, loving, grateful, happy, and content people I know.

So maybe having your story all written isn’t really a bad thing. Maybe there is peace in knowing who and what you are, and how it all works out, and learning to embrace it.

Maybe the loss of pluripotency – of infinite possibility in all its overwhelmingness – isn’t so sucky after all.

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A Little Wrong + A Lot Right = Pretty Darn Good

Life is good. I just have to say that.

I came home from work tonight, after another crazy week of school, absolutely exhausted. I wanted to go out dancing, or even just to a movie this week, but I was too tired. And I couldn’t forget about all the stuff I have to get done tomorrow and Sunday.

I ate dinner at home alone on my couch, thinking in the process about how lame it was, and how I, as a single, 20-something who loves people and activity and fun and new experiences, should be out HAVING them on a Friday night, rather than eating a cottage cheese-based psuedo-dinner on my couch and going to bed at 9:00.

I started to get really sad and grumpy and bummed out.

And then I picked up the book I just checked out from the library, The World As I See It, which is a collection of some of Albert Einstein’s writings, and before I had even opened it, pulled my head out of the tiny little hole of my own life and remembered the rest of the world.

And it made me remember how totally awesome my life is. How much I HAVE. Food and home, family, friends…so much freedom…to be and think and say and do anything my heart and mind and experiences move me to.

And I remembered that life is not about DOING a certain set of activities or checking off a list of accomplishments that are frequent among people in my particular current age bracket. Life is about BEING. Regardless of age, race, gender, occupation, socioeconomic status, or anything else.

It is about being the human being you know you can and should be. It is about living and experiencing and taking it all in one day at a time and relishing the good and beauty, and learning from the pain. And it is about loving. Not just other people, but also yourself (which can sometimes be the hardest part).

Shakespeare once said, “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

You can take that statement to mean a lot of different things, but one that makes a lot of sense to me is that our perception of things, how we interpret them and what meaning we attach to them, almost totally determines how we feel about them.

When I sit around thinking that my life is unsatisfactory or incomplete because I don’t have/do _______, ________, or ________ …it is! And it makes me grumpy.

When I remember that I am staying home on Friday night in my cozy, comfy apartment full of food and clothes and more, bought with the money from a good job, in order to get a good night’s sleep so that I can think and work and play and socialize and learn and live life to the fullest tomorrow, my life seems so great.

And it is.

Why is it that we human beings so often focus on the one or two little things that might possibly be wrong, when there are SO many things that are right?

I am tired of doing that. Need to flip my thinking around somehow, permanently. Do you think it’s possible?