goals · life alignment

Update On My Birthday Funk

Ever since my 37th birthday, I’ve been in a bit of a funk.

That is a substantial age – 37. One could say that I’m in my late thirties. And I don’t feel content with where I’m at, professionally, creatively, and personally.

Now, in the world of family? I am content. I love my two kids like crazy, and I love parenting. I love my wife, and we’re at a moment in our lives (Post Farming) when we’re sort of resetting our lives, routines, rituals, et al.

But everything else feels not-quite-right. And that’s silly, I know. I’m incredibly blessed, and incredibly privileged. When I am not in a funk, I practice gratitude and I count my blessings wholeheartedly. However, when I’m in a funk like this – an existential birthday funk that leaves me filled with regret about past choices and worry about being able to achieve my dreams – I get overwhelmed.

There were a couple of other triggers for my funk in addition to my birthday. I had a coffee date with a friend who is self-employed and running several different businesses, and I found myself envying how inspired and motivated she is. And I started noticing a lot of writers and bloggers who have found a niche and a platform, and realizing that many of them are either my age or younger. That terrifies me, and triggers a lot of comparison and envy. And FEAR! Because what if it’s too late to achieve my dreams related to writing? Or what if I don’t have enough money, talent, or dedication to get it done?

Oy. I know better than to compare myself to others, especially via the internet. I should not compare my experience to anyone else’s experience. But my envy really is caused by fear and dissatisfaction related to my own life. If I felt like I was moving toward my creative goals, then I would not envy others. And I have known that I want to be a writer since I was seven years old, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

When I start to feel regretful and overwhelmed, my kids keep me from completely losing my perspective. Adoption is a miracle; there are a million different circumstances that had to transpire to bring my boys home to Tamara and me. When I start to ponder, What if I had moved to California ten years ago?, it’s not long before I remember that if I’d done that, it’s quite possible that I wouldn’t be Edgar and Jonas’s mommy, which is unfathomable to me. So, they help me to keep faith, and to remember that everything happens for a reason.

After my coffee date and a mini meltdown when I found out that an extremely successful blogger is my age and way wealthier than I’ll ever be, I realized something. I don’t actually want any of the things that my self-employed friend has; I just feel insecure because I’m not working (enough) toward all the things I do want. And sometimes, I get so caught up in envying others that I lose focus on the things I want. By the time my coffee date was over, I was daydreaming about becoming a yoga instructor and starting a private therapy practice. Once I calmed down and clarified things, I realized that I actually don’t want either of those things.

I love yoga. I love running. I love reading. Those are big, huge aspects of ME that I enjoy. But when I really sat down to clarify what my top priorities are, I came up with the same three words that I identified months ago: family, service, and writing.

I would not have felt envious of my friend if I were a) making progress on a draft of a novel, b) writing stories or articles and submitting them for publication, or c) financially secure enough to know that I have plenty of time, space, and money to do what I want to do.

Now, item c) is tricky at the moment; we’ll table that for the time being.

But when I look at those three top priorities – family, service, and writing – I know exactly what needs to be done. I need to prioritize my family – that one’s easy. I need to seek out and take advantage of all opportunities to help others.

AND THEN THERE IS WRITING.

I know what needs to be done. I know the challenges – kids, full-time job, community. I have to find the time and the way to make things happen in my writing life. My birthday funk won’t feel funky if I am working toward the goals I want to achieve.

I’ve been contemplating life alignment for such a long time, and it feels amazing to zero in on my three top priorities in life. NOW – to make the changes I need to make so my priorities become prioritized. Let’s do this.

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flow · life alignment

Life Alignment, Continued

I’ve written a few previous posts about my wish to have everything in my life align with who I am and what I value most. I started calling this Life Alignment, without knowing if this was a real thing or just something I made up in my head. For me, Life Alignment means:

  1. Everything in my life – work, hobbies, side hustles, family – is somehow aligned, connected, in a kind of flow.
  2. There is a common theme or passion running through everything in my life. 
  3. Everything in my life feels like it’s in balance and harmony.

You’re forgiven if this doesn’t make sense to you; I’m still figuring it out myself! I don’t always know how to describe Life Alignment, but I know it when I see it. Like my friend whose passion in life is early childhood mental health; her job is in that field, she listens to podcasts and reads articles and books related to that subject, and she spends as much of her time around young children as possible. And my friend who is all about social change and service; he works in that realm, he volunteers and advocates for causes he cares about in his free time, and he is well-informed and well-read on the issues he cares about. THAT’S what Life Alignment is to me.

The summer is a great time to reflect, and I started a little low-validity low-stress research project related to Life Alignment. I scrolled through my Facebook friends, one by one, and I took note of any friends that seem to have the kind of Life Alignment I am seeking. I was surprised to find that there weren’t many – maybe 15 people out of several hundred friends.

Now, to be fair – this was not a scientific experiment. For many of these people, I have no idea what their passions are or if their work lines up with their values. It could be that many more people feel they have Life Alignment, even if it doesn’t seem obvious to me that they’ve got it. And, for the 15 people that I see as having great Life Alignment – I have no idea if they feel aligned! Maybe my friend who is a yoga instructor and seems so passionate about her work and her hobbies secretly wishes she was a travel writer. Maybe my friend who spends all her time gardening and cooking actually wishes that her life was centered around education or politics. You cannot tell how satisfied someone is with their Life Alignment by checking their Instagram feed; I know this.

However, this non-scientific bit of research was helpful to me. It showed me that the thing I’m seeking is rare and perhaps challenging to achieve. It showed me that Life Alignment is probably not as clear-cut for most people as it is for my friend who teaches, plays, lives, and breathes softball. For most of us, perhaps it’s more subtle; there might be things that tie my life together, but maybe my life will have multiple themes that are woven together throughout my work, play, family, and home.

I scribbled a list of things that I’m passionate about, thinking, I’ll know that I have Life Alignment when my life includes all of these passions in some way. (Wait for it.) Here’s the list: writing; books + reading; adoption + family + parenting; children with special needs; the outdoors; exercise; mindfulness + meditation; laughter + silliness + play; honesty and authenticity and shameless truth telling; mental health + wellness + recovery; and service.

I mean, come on. Talk about unattainable! That list is long. Maybe it’s impossible to incorporate every single one of your passions into your life’s work. For my current job, I’m a school social worker at a public middle school. That means my work days could potentially incorporate the themes of mindfulness, meditation, laughter, silliness, play, mental health, wellness, and parenting. That’s a lot; there’s a lot of potential to weave my interests into my days. Of course, to do so, I have to be intentional. I have to either work toward achieving Life Alignment or just allow Life Alignment to have a stronger influence on my everyday activities than other factors might.

I’m going to continue to explore this topic, in my writing and in my thoughts. I’ve slowing been developing a skeleton plan for how to have greater alignment in my personal and professional life. Getting a job with summers off was an amazing first step. Incorporating mindfulness and play into my work is a great second step. Onward!

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