“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”- Christopher McCandless (Into the Wild)
When I was a kid, I wanted to consume the whole world. I was brimming with ambition for all the places I would to see, all the hobbies I would take up, all the books to be read and the ones I would write. In adulthood, all the bright aspirations that burned in my belly mostly smoldered. My old ambitions became an old friend I kept meaning to call to catch up but quickly forgot. “Oh! I should sign up for that writing workshop. I’ve been meaning to do that.” Suddenly, six months then five years pass. It was easy to settle into life’s routine and put off the things that intrigued me.
Time passing makes me think how easy it can be to let go of goals when it feels like the window of opportunity has passed, but as long you’re alive and kicking, you’re not never too old and it’s never too late to continually evolve, learn new things, and become the person you’d like to be.
Become fluent in a new language
Many people think that the adult brain doesn’t possess the plasticity of a child’s, and if you didn’t learn another language as a youngster, you’ve missed your chance to be fluent. The brain actually maintains its ability to change—it’s not necessarily effortless to learn a new language but entirely possible! People who start learning a language later in life will find that it takes time, discipline and determination. A common obstacle to mastering a language is the self-induced pressure to become a conversational expert in a relatively short amount of time. Enjoy the experience and immerse yourself in relishing the language! You may have the conversational skills of a toddler at first, but the key is to dive into the learning experience with gusto. There are an abundance of free online tutorials and apps for language learning if you can’t afford the Rosetta Stone suite. Practice as much as you can! Find a conversational meetup group where you can practice with other people and flex your linguistic muscles. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to widen your perspectives when you’re able to speak to people from other cultures!
Pick up an instrument
The good news is that as an adult, you’re more likely to practice and be disciplined because it’s something you truly want to learn. Even if you don’t reach virtuoso status, learning an instrument is a wonderful way to engage your brain and keep it active. Adults who decide to learn an instrument often become bogged down with learning pains. While learning an instrument, it’s important to have a good dose of humility and be okay with the fact that you may fall “flat” as you’re learning. You may sound awful to your own ears (and nearby listeners) at first, but the great thing about sticking with an instrument is the eventual payoff!
Become a Connoisseur
Is there something that you deeply enjoy and geek out over but never seem to have time to deepen your knowledge about? Maybe you have intuitive judgment of great wine, but you would like to train your palette and be able to speak to why it’s so good. Maybe you love jazz and want to move beyond a generalist appreciation and really dig into its history, so you can talk about the jazz influences in a new top 40 hit. Chase your curiosity on something you enjoy and exhaustively explore it!
The workplace is rapidly transforming, and we are are moving away from the idea of “paying your dues” and gradually ascending up the ladder in strictly linear fashion. People are transitioning into fields that are drastically different from their former careers. Jumping into a new professional endeavor can be scary with the worry of job security weighing heavy on you. If you can’t stop thinking about a professional endeavor you’ve always wanted to get into, find out what you need to in order to make it happen. Don’t be discouraged if it’s a slower transition. Entering into your desired field may mean volunteering/interning to gain experience, building a professional network in your target field, getting necessary certifications, or even going back to school. The important thing is to start now, even if it’s small but sustainable steps.
Take A Gap Year
Gap years aren’t just for recent grads–they’re for grown-ups too! People in the midst of their professional careers are taking breaks from their everyday lives to go to travel, volunteer, learn a new skill, explore new cultures. There are practical considerations of responsibilities you would be leaving behind before going on a sabbatical. If you’re worried about having a job to return to, finances, or even leaving behind a significant other, plan ahead and have a discussion with your employer and family members to go over the serious aspects of leaving.
We most likely won’t do all we’d like to do during our lifetime, our dreams may even shift direction, but while we’re here, let’s not use age as an excuse and just do it!