Do you become less ambitious as you get older?
I swear I’m not lazy.
But lately, I’ve been noodling over this idea that the older I’ve gotten (I’m approaching 25 folks), the more that I’ve been okay with The Fluffy Things. Things like having a cool apartment, or working just enough hours that I could go to the gym in the evening, or going on Nice vacations to the Almafi Coast.
Things that I always looked down upon. Things I always thought would mean that I was settling.
But, it doesn’t feel like I’m settling. It feels good. Nice. It feels like I could take a sigh of relief after pushing myself to Be The Best for so long.
Because, being The Best takes a lot out of you. You never stop. You’re constantly thinking of a new idea, a new project to work on. You can’t leave work or friends or Facebook unanswered.
Your eyes are constantly Wide Open.
So yes, feeling comfortable is Nice. It’s like a breath of fresh air.
Until it isn’t. Because, every time I get too comfortable, I have this nagging feeling. One that says: “Is this It? Are you going to stop now? Weren’t you going to be something one day?”
It’s a feeling that is often accompanied by guilt. One that whispers: I shouldn’t be enjoying at this age. I should be working hard, working long, working until I am something.
For as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve been conditioned to think that you can only enjoy when you’re old and retired and rich.
So, I bucked that old-school mindset long ago.
But, sometimes I see an uber-successful old classmate, or celebrities who are younger than me, or even myself in the mirror and it makes me think. It makes me wonder if I could ever be satisfied. If I could be truly happy. If I could feel fulfilled in all aspects of my life — not just when I send the right emails at work or when I cook a *fancy* dinner or when I make it out and to brunch the next morning.
As I approach living for a quarter-century soon, I can’t stop that feeling from rising in my chest: that I should have been something by now. That I could be enjoying if I had just worked harder. If I had just worked longer.
So, should that stop me from enjoying? Do I work harder and faster and longer to Be Something? Or do I “give up” and enjoy my nice apartment, and flexible job and cool vacations?
I don’t know yet. I don’t think I have to choose. But, clearly, I don’t have all the answers — or even some of them.
Whenever I feel alone in pondering these Big Life Questions, I always come back to this quote by another (famous) writer who had a similar internal struggle. E.B. White – the guy who brought us Charlotte’s Web – once wrote:
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
Some days, we can Improve the World. And some days, we can just Enjoy it.