Nearly seven years ago, I wrote a longish post at Foldedspace lamenting that I wasn’t the man I want to be. Here’s the advice I gave myself in 2004:
Happiness comes from within. If you’re not happy with the man you are, then be the man you want to be. If the man you want to be writes when he gets home from work, then write when you get home from work. If the man you want to be is fit, then be fit. If the man you want to be is not a smart-ass, then don’t be a smart-ass. If the man you want to be doesn’t watch TV, then do not watch TV. Read. Listen to classical music. Cook. Keep the house clean. Form deeper relationships with your friends. Be the man you want to be.
I’ve undergone a massive transformation since writing those words. Seven years ago, I suffered from depression. I had neither goals nor direction. I worked at a job I hated. I was fat. I was deep in debt. My life seemed pointless.
Today, things are different. I haven’t followed my own advice to the letter — I still crave deep connections with friends and haven’t done enough to make that happen — but I’ve followed much of it.
I actually feel younger at age 42 than I did at age 35. I’m certainly fitter and healthier. I’m in better financial shape. I have a sense of purpose. Best of all, I’ve learned the power of being true to myself and others. It benefits no one to put on a false face and pretend to be someone I’m not. I used to make decisions based on what other people would think, not based on what I wanted. Today, I do my best to be friendly and nice, but ultimately what matters most is that I make decisions that reflect my authentic self.
I’ve spent the past seven years on a relentless quest for self improvement. Now here we are in 2011, and I like who I’ve become. But the trouble is that this New J.D. is living a life designed by the Old J.D. I have to tell you: I’m not a fan. It’s like I’ve been living in the Matrix, or like I’ve been chained inside Plato’s cave. Now that I’m free, I want a different lifestyle.
What do I mean?
Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, I want to travel. (Several times a day, I think of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life: “I’m shaking the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world!”) I want to meet new people and see how they live. I want to see natural wonders — and man-made wonders, too. I want to try new food. I want jump out of airplanes and swim with the sharks, trek over mountains and get lost in the jungle. (But not too lost.) I want to taste the world.
There’s no way to know what I’ll truly enjoy until I get out there and try things. The issue isn’t so much what I’m going to do. There are many options, and I’m willing to experiment until I find something that works for me. The issue is how do I make enormous life changes without severing past ties completely. Is it even possible? I don’t know.
Take our house, for instance. When we bought it in 2004, it was my dream house. That’s not true anymore. Now I feel like it’s burden. It’s too much space for two people. The yard requires constant maintenance. I don’t like the location. And so on. But Kris loves the place. It’s still her dream house. Is it fair for me to ask for change when she’s happy where she is?
It’s going to take a while to figure out this stuff. I’m pleased with who I am but not where I am. I guess that’s one part of the process of change, right? My life isn’t just good — it’s amazing. And I plan to make it more amazing. But the adjustments are going to take some time.