I am, at the very least, halfway through my life, and most likely more than that; closer to two-thirds, if you look at average lifespans and the worsening health outcomes facing the majority of Americans. (I prefer to think of myself as only middle-aged, rather than accelerating rapidly toward my doom, so I’ll stick with halfway.) It’s a sobering, even depressing, thought, but something odd seems to have happened as a result of it.
Age brings certain gifts (which is great, considering all the things it takes away), among them things like wisdom and experience and perspective. I’ve been recognizing these in myself and beginning to understand their value and usefulness. I also seem to have acquired another gift, quite unexpected, and one that I haven’t yet fully assimilated, and that is clarity—of purpose, or direction, or focus. Where it came from I don’t know; it just appeared one day like a stray kitten on a doorstep, waiting patiently for me to notice it and let it in. It’s really quite alien to my way of being, but I’ll take it.
I feel as though I’ve spent all my life up until very recently sort of sampling my way through my existence, tasting a bit of this and a bit of that, trying out various things but not going very deeply into too many of them. You might charitably call me a dilletante, though the way I describe it might make me sound shallow (and haha, how much easier my life might have been if I were shallow). My interests are vast, and the world has always looked to me like a massive buffet. Many of the dishes looked unpalatable, but many, many others were intriguing enough for me to try them. Some I tired of quickly, while others had a more lasting appeal; some were done and gone, while others would cycle in and out of my attention. I never managed a great depth of proficiency with much of anything, because my focus was always being pulled off in multiple directions to examine other things.
And then one day, quite recently, that changed.
Don’t misunderstand me; I still have many and varied interests, and I’m sure I always will. However, I find that I suddenly have focus, a clear understanding of what I wish to pursue. To those of you lucky bastards who “got” this at a young age, I envy you. To those of you still wandering and wondering—well, if it happened to me, there’s still hope for you!
Maybe it took the change in perception of time that comes with growing older, along with the simple fact that I work longer hours now than I ever have before, making me very conscious of the time I have to spend at pursuits of my own choosing. A while ago I was being pushed toward taking on a project that I felt an inexplicable resistance to. I eventually realized that my level of competence for the task at hand was insufficient, and that to develop it sufficiently would require an expenditure of time that would force me to focus on that to the exclusion of much else—and when I asked myself if I really wanted that, I knew almost instantly that I didn’t, and further, I knew almost instantly what I did want—a miracle in itself. That kind of certainty is so foreign to me that it almost seemed to come from outside me, and perhaps it did. I’d been invoking for clarity, and I got it.
So now, as I wrote elsewhere, my task is to not only get back what I’ve lost, but to exceed what I’ve ever had, and I have begun. Let’s see where this leads.