Sunday, June 26, 2011

Teddy Roosevelt and His Quarter-Life Crisis: Part II

It seems like no matter where I go, I keep running into this man, Teddy Roosevelt; The Badlands, The Menger Hotel in San Antonio, the cliff dwelling in Arizona, NYC Museum of Natural History, he's been everywhere.  He's a fascinating man and a fascinating read, which is why I chose to use him as my archetype to help those dealing with quarter life issues.  Please read Part I first, as I lay out a time in Teddy's life when he wanted nothing more but to oversee some cattle.  Like most quarter-life scenarios, his some what built up for a few years, though the tragedy that struck him was a complete shock and ultimately was what drove him into exile. Prior to this turning point, he felt the small rumblings of a quarter life crisis when in college.  He was driven and good at two things, the study of animals and the study of law & history.  The girl he pursued in college, who was probably not the right fit but became his wife eventually anyway, pushed him into pursuing law and ultimately...politics.  Even after his decision, he still wrestled with his scientific side.

Advice:  Again, I chose Teddy Roosevelt because he went through the same struggles we face, yet became one of the most successful men in American history.  After reading him, and much contemplation, I decided to attempt a list of advice for my friends who are going through these interesting times.

The 20’s now more than previous generations is an interesting time in life where people really have the opportunity to give hard consideration to the direction they want to take in life rather than stumbling into things, a true blessing to come out of our modern age.  I don’t call it a crisis because it’s a blessing to have the opportunity to go through this phase.  People in other countries or other situations don’t have the luxury to live life as God intended them to live, they are merely just surviving.  Those going through the midlife “crisis” typically don’t have the freedom to make the necessarily changes and if they do…it can be disastrous.  Some are blessed to have a clear cut and dry direction since high school and college and they stick with it…some of us aren’t quite that lucky.  Anyway, here are just some thoughts to help anybody who might be going through this funny period in life so you can come out of it with Teddy Roosevelt like success. So what are the signs that you are going through a quarter-life? Wakening up to the fact the your adult life isn't what you expected, not knowing what you want out of relationships & career & goals, an obsessive fear of failure, not being able to grow out of your high school or college years and constantly comparing yourself to other name a few are sure signs of a quarter-life discontent.  

It's a fact of life that what we do becomes a heavy aspect of who we are, at least in the eyes of other people.  But remember a job does not make a life.  If you don't like what you're currently doing don’t give up too easily on a job, give it time and it may get better or it may lead to something better that you enjoy and ask yourself what it is exactly that you dislike about it.  Teddy Roosevelt hated his job as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, but that job is what got him a Col. position in the Spanish-American war leading the Rough Riders to glory on San Juan Hill, which catapulted him to stardom and eventually the presidency.  There are two ways of viewing work, as merely a way to make money, or to seek for it to be a way of enhancing your life or as a way to make a difference in the world.  If it is the latter, you're not going to make an 'impact' unless you're doing something you love.  But in figuring out what it is you want to do, ask yourself what would make you happier-a job that provides you with stability and good lifestyle, or one that doesn't have those luxuries but something you love doing.  There is no right or wrong answer.  Also, you can do something you love that doesn't have to your job.  You have the time to fit all of it in, if you like the stability your job brings but also have a passion for something else, make that thing your hobby for now or something to do for a little extra income until you've built it up, or become versed in it enough to make it your full time career...or maybe you would prefer to keep it as merely something on the side, thats okay too. It's better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable and as the scriptures say in Mark 16:26 "What good is it for a man if gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul?" And if you're worried about money or are unemployed right now (as I now am), remember Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."...and he will provide you with everything you need.

Honestly, have you noticed that when you graduate college you're around people who seem to either all be married, want to get married, or go back to school or have a nice job or something that you want that you currently don't have?  Whatever it is, when you're out of college and there are no longer any guideposts it may become easy to get into 'comparison' mode.  I like to replace the word in Ecclesiastes "meaningless" for "endless".  Comparing yourself to others is endless so don't fall into this trap, not with neighbors and especially not with friends, it could damage your relationships.  Besides, if you were satisfied with the things you had would you really want other people jealous of the things you have? Of course not, or at least you shouldn't, b/c you know that only puts distance between you and other people.

If you feel like your drifting apart from your friends, know that its okay for your relationships to change and evolve.  If your tastes change, so what?  Your history is something sacred you share and that sometimes is enough or think of new ways to get to know your friends.  Relationships will change, and that is okay.

Firstly, if you’re single, it’s natural at this age to have a harder time meeting people, in college, meeting people came easy but now you have to work for it a bit and that’s just the reality of it.  Plus work gets in the way.  Think outside the box, and move outside your currently closed circle of friends if you have to, get out of the house.  Focus on things that interest you and you’ll hone in on meeting the kind of people you want to meet. Be flexible on your ‘checklist’, sometimes sparks build over time (I think some Asian cultures primarily view things this way).  Finding someone who spiritually fits your mold is probably one of the most important factors. 

If you’re married, taken, whatever, remember that sparks won’t always be constant.  Day to day life is boring a lot of times and that is okay.  While those things are important, they don’t have to be central but they are still very necessary.    My 2 Cents....PS....Teddy Roosevelt had to ask his first wife to marry him twice, she rejected him for a long time and his 2nd wife had rejected him years before he had met his first wife.  I believe she realized her mistake.  

Dreams/Goals and Desires
This is the core to who we are. This biggest questions right now with most are; What are my desires, how do I find out what they are, when do I let go and start over? With so many choices, how do we hone in on what our deepest goals are?  Sometimes you have to take a step, any step in some direction to begin to sort it out and so it is necessary then that you have to take risk especially while you're young enough to. Self-doubt is the biggest hindrance and realistically most of the time it is a paper dragon.  Practice small acts of faithfulness, the Lord isn't going to give you more responsibility if you're not doing the best with what you currently have, be patient in this and wait and be the best you can be at what you're currently doing.  Prioritize without giving consideration to logistics for now(there are many ways to get somewhere, as this trip has taught me) but just stop and think about what you can and can't live without.  A lot of times asking yourself the question "what would I do with 100 million dollars" is helpful with prioritizing, ask a friend, think about the things you know you don't want and look for buried clues within.  It doesn't have to be career related, and treat knowing what you want and how to get there as two different things to figure out.  Dissect your dreams, judge how realistic they are.  Be flexible, it's okay to have many different goals that seem to conflict with each other, don't worry about that for now, but know that when a dream starts to get in the way of your other passions it may be worth re-evaluated or letting that dream evolve.  Teddy Roosevelt did not want to remarry after the death of his beloved wife, but he did and his life exploded with joy years later when he thought it was over at the ripe age of 25 because he remained open to a change in his goals.  Don't get caught up in the future or envious of the past, that will steal your life away from you.  While the "timelines" helps, its more important to seek out what you really want first, otherwise this will lead to "settling".  Lastly, know that eventually whether on purpose or by accident, you will stumble on the things you want for yourself. 

Living Situation
Home is that place you depend to drown out all the problems on the outside and if you dread going home then there is probably something you should change.  Teddy Roosevelt could not go to the lavishing home in Oyster Bay(near NYC) which he had spent a few years having built because it was suppose to be a home for him and his wife whom had died.  So he chose to live in a rough cabin in the Badlands which felt more like a home to him than anywhere else for a couple of years.  A home can be a home, no matter what it's size or its location.  If you're living alone, take this opportunity to make your home your own, you'll be surprised at how refreshing it is to have your stuff... and your stuff only surrounding you.  So surround your place with the things you love and don't set your place up as if it's only temporary.  Enjoy the solitude (which you'll appreciate having one day when the kids are screaming and you can't get a moments rest) and don't be afraid to be living alone, sometimes you have to be alone in order to grow but living alone doesn't mean being alone.  If you're living with your parents look at it as a way to spend some valuable time with them that you'll always remember having years down the road....or as a way to save money.  Don't fall into the societal argument that living with the folks is unnatural or something to be ashamed of....Simon Cowell did it at age 30, look at him now.  If you're a married couple and your situation isn't ideal right now, just be patience and look at it as something you'll look back on and laugh when you are living in your castle.  Enjoy the early years, it'll be neat to go back one day and see how far you've come.  

People in our generation are faced with many new things our parents didn’t have to be faced with and we are facing other things at an earlier age than they did as well.  The difference between the quarter and midlife is that the midlife stems from life being too predictable, stagnant and stable while our generations quarter seems to come from having way too many options which leads to our lives being too unpredictable, too unstable and uncertain.  Older people reading this, please do not dismiss this b/c these things have led to many youths having anxiety disorders and depression, times have changed.  However, I'm confident that the things now at this age will seem trivial 10 and 15 years down the road, so break down your questions one by one.  The mistakes you make now can be corrected, you can’t really make any decisions now that will make or break you (to a degree of course).  Any elderly person will tell you the same thing.."things always work themselves out" so trust in that.  Use your 20’s as a learning experience, and resolve to have a long, joyful life ahead of you and trust in the Lord with all your heart. 

1 comment:

  1. Good assessment of a quarter-life crisis. Appreciate your flexibility as you look at this day and the future.