Lifelong Learning and Living

Who says wonder, fulfillment, and fun are only for kids?

Posted Aug 23, 2011

At a recent workshop, a young woman was speaking about her journey.  At 21, she'd finished college, had a great job, and was engaged.  She was looking forward to having a family. 

At 36, I marveled at how we are in the exactly the same place... 15 years apart. 

While the shift from child to adult varies from person to person, there comes a time for all of us when 'growing up' ends and 'settling down' into work and family begins.  Gone is the semester abroad.  Gone are the new subjects and required reading.  Gone is summer camp.  Gone are the many rites of passage and new experiences that help us become who we are. 

What does this mean?  Do we stop 'becoming' after the proverbial 21?   

A look at life's timeline shows that, at least on paper, this is the case.  We walk, we speak, we go to school, often go to college and possibly graduate school, get a job, get married, have children, work................  then retire. 

While a lot goes on in those years, there are no other prescribed stages, no other societal expectations.  And as is so often the case, when expectations are lacking, we fail to rise to meet them. 

How different would our lives be if the culturally demanded rites of passage for young people continued throughout the lifespan?  Learn a new language, live in a different city or country, deepen your connection to the spiritual, take a learning sabbatical, become a community leader, participate in group retreats and programs. Create projects. Change careers. Contribute.  

For many, these are choices that are consciously implemented on individual and family levels.  Yet how much more powerful would all of our lives- and culture- be if we shifted our perspective and saw these not only as possibilities, but expectations?  Even requirements? 

What would the ride be like, as well as our anticipation of it at every stage? 

30: Master a new language
35: Design or participate in a domestic or international community project
40: 6 month career 'change': volunteer or work in a new industry
45: Meditation retreat
50: Year long sabbatical to explore and learn about a different part of the world
55: 100 mile walking expedition
60: Spiritual rite of passage
65: 3 month long traveling lecture circuit: 'Things I've Learned'
70: Initiation as a community leader, teacher, and icon 
75: Write a book

The lifelong learner and wonder-seeker in each of us awaits.  We don't need walking expeditions and sabbaticals to become culturally required options before designing our future.  One of the greatest benefits of being an adult is that we finally have the say in how we want our lives to go.  It's time to implement our own benchmarks to get us there, including having a say in what aging... and living... mean. 

About the Author

Jennifer Hamady specializes in emotional issues that interfere with optimal self-expression and is the author of The Art of Singing.

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