The Narratives of Life

As decades pass in our lives, there are certain common life narratives that we all share. For instance, my country squire years occurred during my thirties. This is typically the “settling down” narrative where the horizon still seems infinite and you can still “have it all” (whatever that means for your own life).

It begins in the teens, where we know everything and nothing at the same time. We believe that there are an infinite number of narratives to choose from and no matter which one we pick, it will turn out well. We are truly immortal creatures with no limitations. For me, the end of that immortality was an explosive confrontation with my own mortality. For most teens though, barring that sort of trauma, the dream has no borders or rules.

Then in the twenties, reality sets in, with the questions “Why can’t I get a job?” or “Why can’t I get the job I want?” or “What am I supposed to do about this student loan?” Some of the loops of possibility are slammed shut in our faces.

Then, after the period of adjustment from student to adult to parenthood in our thirties, we are faced with our forties. This is the narrative of reevaluation and drawing a line in the sand between what we will and no longer will tolerate about our lives.

The clock is officially ticking now and we feel like if we haven’t struck it rich or made it big by the end of our forties, success is looking less likely in our fifties. This is when many of us discover that we can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound like we could in college. The gap between body and brain widens. The sixties often bring the dramatic realization that we don’t have enough savings to retire or enough life insurance. Then, we are launched into the “if only” narrative of our seventies, when regrets often overshadow fond memories. Finally, moving walkway slows as we reach our eighties and begin to accept what is rather than lamenting over what is not.

I hope you will see this as more the baseline, than a user’s guide to life. You have the power to shift your narrative at any time. I did at the age of fifty by defying my decaying body and forcing it into the shape of a competitive athlete, to compete against much younger competitors in Jiu-Jitsu. You are not a character in someone else’s story; forced to follow any one course of action. You have a thing called free will and the will to act on it. The chains can be broken.

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