“How am I doing? Oh you know, just sitting around waiting to die.” — name withheld
The above quote was made some years ago by a woman I’ve known for most of my life. It’s probably needless to say that I was rather shocked to hear her say that. Wow, that’s sooooo depressing! But it occurs to me that there probably are a great number of people — particularly though not only those in our age group, the 50-something, empty-nested persons, who like my friend and I may also be divorced as well. Having no children (and/or spouse or significant other) at home means our lives have to switch into a new post-childraising stage and we need to find new purpose(s) to tackle.
I found my purpose — partly because I thought seriously about it for a few years before my one-and-only offspring flew from the nest almost four years ago — and am as happy as the proverbial clam.
Literature is full of stories about people who “are living lives of quiet desperation,” as I heard (or read) many, many years ago. One that comes to my mind was a story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” which I was forced to read while in college back in the day. Mitty is a meek little man who lives a dreary day-to-day existence, pretty much going through the motions, working at his job he can’t stand while he daydreams about being a superhero (come to think of it, sounds like my last date).
Though I question whether anyone out there will remember this story, I’m sure many of you can identify with it. We’ve all had jobs we detested, sometimes hated with a white-hot smoldering passion, that we did because we needed to pay the bills. Some have been “stuck” in relationships/marriages that were duller than dishwater, unfulfilling, or worse yet, abusive. Other people move to other towns and big cities thinking they’ll be happier elsewhere but then they’re stuck in a new place with unfamiliar surroundings without resources and they realize, “golly, I didn’t really like change too much in the first place!.” Change for the better is always a good thing but change for the sake of change, not always for the best.
Other people make life choices by rote (or in other words, on autopilot)— or they let other people make their life choices for them — because “society” tells them to do so. This is called “going with the program” and sometimes it — following mindlessly along with some plan without analyzing the possible outcomes/consequences of said plan first — is usually NOT the best course of action for a person. The “program” may be to get married, take a certain job, move to a certain location that is really not a good fit for the person receiving this advice. In this case, it’s much better off to make one’s own plans and follow them through, although I realize this is much easier said than done. Though …. it CAN be done.
Thus, the “getting stuck” and therefore “living a life of quiet desperation,” like Walter Mitty and (most likely) millions and millions of other folks in the world.Some people let others (parents, other relatives, a spouse/significant other or “society” in general) decide their fates for them, their paths, by making very important life-changing moves for them in the guise of “this is what’s best for you (and quite possibly it ISN’T best for that person, when logically analyzed according to that person’s wants, needs and visions for him or her self).
I highly recommend against this, and advise charting one’s own course. There are neutral people, mentors, and friends who might have your best interests in mind who can help greatly along the road to your plan. Listen to them, but though your own mind’s filter of “is this the best/right thing for me??”
I know making changes is no easy task, though it’s not impossible. Whether you want a new job, romantic relationship, different residence or some such new thing in life, go for it! Map out a plan. Listen to others and trust your own gut intuition. Make your life better. Trust me: you really don’t want to merely exist, to just be, instead of really living and enjoying the now. Whatever you do, don’t just sit round waiting to die. Seriously, it’s just no fun.