Our lives up until about 18-years-old revolve around strict non-disputable timelines. These are the years of primary and secondary education, and most everybody goes through this experience. Then there is the choice of college, work, military, etc., and things splinter off a bit.
But if you are to stick to cultural formalities, there’s usually a clear outline of what you’re supposed to do at a specific age. In the US one should be married, and have children in their mid to late 20’s/early 30’s (this depends on a rural or urban environment), buy a house, career benchmarks, have X amount in the 401K (retirement account) by 40, settle down, etc. If you don’t think about it, there’s an automatic process to it all.
But this only makes sense if you know the day you’re going to die. Let me explain: if you wanted to have children and knew you were going to die at 40 then having them at 18 would be a good idea because the average age would be too late. If you’re to die at 108 then having them at 24 or 34 is irrelevant. Perhaps 34 is much better since you’ll have much more to offer them. If your dream is to cut free and travel into the world then waiting for retirement is a risky proposition. Nobody said you’re going to make it to 65 or 70 years old.
The problems with these timelines are that people are different and naturally come into different phases of their lives at different times. At 20 I dropped out of college after two years. I was a terrible student and didn’t want to be there. I had too much energy to sit down for an entire class. All I wanted to do was my passion, snowboarding. I had my schedule nailed down so tightly around this goal that all my classes were on Tuesday and Thursday and during any free time I snowboarded or cycled.
My first attempt at college was a big waste of money and I received little from it. At 20 I moved to Lake Tahoe, California, pursued my dream of snowboarding, and got good at it. I lived for that sport completely for five years. Afterward, I achieved my dream and traveled the world for two years and then went to University at 27 years old. I was an older student but I got so much out of my education since I was 100% committed to it, nobody told me to go, and it was something that I paid for myself. Some of my younger athletic energy dissipated so I could actually sit down in class and focus; I was much more interested in learning since I had seen over 50 countries at that time, which had a profound effect on opening my mind. I spent long durations reading which was impossible for me before that age.
There have been countless stories of businesses that were created at a very young age and also at an older age. Then there’s Harland David Sanders who was born in 1890 and had his first big success of Kentucky Fried Chicken at the age of 62, the time most people were about to retire.
My brother is a chef but instead of going down the expected path of culinary school in his early 20s, he got his foot in the door at top-notch restaurants, proved himself, and worked his way up. Are the best chefs in the world teaching at culinary schools or running the best restaurants? Becoming an apprentice for a master can be a much more beneficial path than culinary school. Now he cooks for some of the biggest names in the world without a formal culinary education. My mother is living like it’s her teen years now that she never had with a new boyfriend and an improved life, and she’s 75.
So what’s the point in all of this? It’s never too late to go for your dreams, that timelines in life are like one-size fits hats. They might work for the majority, but they don’t work for everybody, and it’s always much better to wear a custom-fitted lid.
Not knowing when you’re going to die makes life much more interesting but also leaves it open to design it in a way that’s not expected of you. Staying true to yourself is paramount for happiness and self-dignity.
Owning your life is about learning about yourself and following your truth. This takes work and is an ongoing process. Age has nothing to do with so much in life because age is an elusive number that cannot give you an objective timeline; most of us don’t know how much time we’re working with. By owning your life, you’re not limited by the expectations society puts on you. Age is only relevant if you know the day you will die.
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