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Later, I remember reading about midlife crises. I remember reading how people would get to a place and begin wondering if "this is all that there is". I didn't understand it then, either, because the world seemed so full of potential and there was just so much to do, to achieve.
I don't doubt that there is still potential. And I wouldn't say that I am in a state of crisis... but now I do understand. I have always said that I doubt I will ever be bored in retirement, because I have many and varied interests. I still believe this, but I can see now, that the things that our culture pushes and pushes as the focus of our lives: career, family, house, etc. have all happened for you at retirement, and indeed, have happened for me, for the most part right now... at 38 1/2.
I have friends my same age that are thinking about these things too. Some are feeling a bit more pessimistic than others. But that question is there: What next? What is next to look forward to, to strive for, after you have achieved some - or all - the goals of your youth? How will you make your mark?
I find this question a bit challenging in some ways, as there was never a specific career beyond mothering that I aspired to. I have many interests, as I said, but I have never felt driven in any one particular direction and after homeschooling, I wonder from time to time what I will do. I have some ideas - some good ones, I think - but I guess I'm thinking about the bigger picture. Actually, I guess I should say, I am thinking of the smaller picture.
To me, small is delightful and I think that is the direction I am heading for the long haul. I always seem to do things backwards. :) The things that I want to do don't require a formal education. When others are wondering how they are going to save for retirement (something, quite honestly, that we think about too), one of the things I want to ask is, "Well, why don't you just see how little it is that you can live on contentedly and see what your actual cost is?" I confess that I do not know the pure answer to this myself, because I have a family and not all of them want to get as tiny as they can be. But the things that are constantly exciting for me are those things I do to shrink my ecological footprint. I am learning now about permaculture. I have found that we have been doing some of the things already, but there is more. Wouldn't it be fabulous if there were many, many gardens on your block, or down your street, or boxes in your apartment building, or a community garden, where we could get half of our food? Wow, that's a big goal, but it is one that I wonder if it is one we can work towards? The skills of drying and preserving foods are ones that have been lost for some, but would need to be revivied if we wanted to be living as locally as possible. Within this goal is community building as well, because we can't be self-sustaining if we can't rely on those around us.
The other day I listened to a podcast that talked about daily "giving your life away" for Christ. I have been thinking about what that means for me. I'm not a person who feels led to the mission fields and I don't currently have a particular "ministry" (beyond my home and family) that I am involved in. There are issues that I care about, but I am not an in-your-face type of activist. But if I can take less, so others can have more, I think that is one way I can do this. If I can consciously try to use fewer petroleum based products (plastic, cosmetics with petrolatum, and, of course, driving), the pollution will diminish and children with athsma can breathe a bit easier and perhaps fewer children will develop athsma to begin with. Also, we won't need to rely on forein countries to meet our energy needs... we won't have to fight about it and our children and their children won't have to die because of it.
So, I think this is the direction I'm heading. It's counter-intuitive to many who want to achieve more and do more and be more, but when it comes to thinking of my future, I'm thinking smaller.