What’s Next?

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This is the time of year folks are supposed to set new goals for themselves.  Resolutions.  Ambitions spoken aloud, made public.  Historically, I’ve always been pretty dependable when it came to creating my own annual list of New Year’s Resolutions.  Although I’m several smartphones along, a quick scan of my current iPhone’s “Notes” reveals lists going back several years.  But I haven’t made a list yet for 2015. 

I can’t seem to conjure up a clear and persuasive answer to the question, “What’s next?”

2014 began as a rough year, objectively speaking.  My maternal grandmother passed away in January, providing a sudden and unwelcome jolt to my entire extended family.  All of us would likely agree, however, that Grandma’s passing brought us all closer together.  Renewed and reaffirmed old but rock-solid bonds.  Her death was also the main inspiration for starting this “Lemonade Chronicles” blog of mine.  Finally putting pen to paper — fingertips to QWERTY keyboards — after years of mulling it over.  I’ve published 121 posts this year.  All, in one way or another, celebrating and perhaps attempting to emulate my grandmother’s uncanny ability to make lemonade out of lemons.  Her own life presented her with gargantuan lemons.  Zero advantage.  No money to speak of.  Plenty of adversity.  So I feel silly, in comparison, bemoaning anything about my own current existence. 

I frequently and proudly remind my kids of my (and thus their) modest beginnings.  The frequency of these reminders reached a fever pitch during the Christmas season.  For every new petition for a PS4 or Anki Drive, I countered with, “Do you know that Grandma Graham’s kids were happy to get only one gift under the tree?  Usually hand-made, and I think Daddy’s mommy was lucky if she got a raggedy doll.”  And if the kids ever complain about where we live, I remind them that when I was born, my parents (both scrapping towards master’s degrees) lived in a trailer.  The same deal when it comes to the boys’ expensive private school.  Both of my sons know that my high school now has metal detectors at the entrances.  And that I actually know what it sounds like when one boy steps down hard on another boy’s head on a lunch room floor.  The answer?  Like a milk carton popping. (Don’t worry, the junior high schooler somehow was pretty much totally fine despite the awful-looking stomping). 

I don’t mean to overdo this.  Other kids had it far worse than I.  Many people who knew me well then or know me well now would understandably laugh out loud at my suggesting that anything in my life has been rough.  And I think I had a really great childhood.  I have a head chocked full of fond memories.  Even the memories of which I am not fond, many of those I think helped me become a more resilient human being. 

I don’t know whether these sorts of “where you come from” lessons do any good when dispensed from the head of the dinner table or from the car’s driver seat.  The mini-sermons typically trigger eye rolls rather than thoughtful reflection.  I don’t think I even know what “thoughtful reflection” would look like on my children’s faces. 

All that I suppose is meant to convey the notion that I have a pretty good sense of my beginnings.  And I’m at the point in my life where I embrace and appreciate those beginnings.  But that doesn’t make it any easier to whip up my list of 2015 New Year’s Resolutions.  To identify what’s next.

Professionally, I’m enjoying consulting for a number of early-stage, consumer-facing businesses whose products fall somewhere in the outdoor lifestyle space.  Helping them get from where they are now to and through a key milestone.  Helping them figure out how to tell the world about their truly great products.  Consulting provides me with a fulfilling sense of autonomy — I help move my clients’ dials, for sure, and I also take my dog for long walks on the beach, shuttle my boys from one practice to another, spend countless hours coaching on Little League diamonds, cook pretty impressive dinners served on pretty impressive table settings, blog(!), run or swim or hike or bike every day, and generally decide on my own how best to spend every hour of every day.

I know that probably sounds great.  And it is, for the most part.  But I’m ready for a new challenge, professionally.  Something to put my back into whole-heartedly.  My current day-to-day, work-wise, is just too…comfortable. Too easy.  I’m just passing time, not leaving a distinct mark that truly matters.

I suppose I yearn for the days when I went to bed thinking about work and woke up thinking about work.  Not in a death-struggle-pit-in-your-stomach way, but in a “I can’t wait to whip my legs off the bed and slap my feet on the floor to get back into the office” way.  When the stuff I worked on, I honestly believed, could inspire other people.  Change their lives in a positive way.  Help them see they can do things — or at least attempt to do things — they’d previously thought impossible. 

It’s been a long time since I felt that.  I miss it.  I would like to find that feeling again in 2015.

So what else?

I suppose I would like to tackle something that is physically ridiculous in 2015.  I’m inspired by Caldwell and Jorgeson’s current attempt on Yosemite’s “Dawn Wall.”  But I don’t have time to pick up another hobby like rock-climbing.  And I probably don’t have the intestinal fortitude to hang a tent off a sheer cliff 1,000 feet up in the air.  I’ve already done a bunch of marathons and triathlons, though.  I was swimming in the first leg of the inaugural Ironman Utah when a fellow participant drowned in chaotic, whipped-up waves.  I’ve done the swim from Alcatraz a dozen or so times.  I got a black belt in karate many years ago, having to do some objectively impossible stuff along the way.  Holding my legs in a squat for 90 minutes while resisting the urge to vomit and pass out, for example.  Facing a long line of far more experienced black belts, one after another, who tried to punch my lights out.  Also while resisting the urge to vomit and pass out. 

So I think I have a handle on what it means to extend oneself.  Push the limits.  Learn who you really are.  What you’re really made of. But it’s been a long time since I explored those limits.  Really pushed myself. 

Instead, now at 46 years old, I realize that I’ve settled into a comfortable pattern of daily physical activity.  Too-comfortable.  The kind that can mostly be quantified by the plastic band I wear on my left wrist and monitor obsessively. I can’t remember the last truly difficult or nerve-wracking physical task I undertook.  I don’t think I can even remember the last time I caught a whiff or fleeting glimpse of my own limits.  Out there somewhere off in the distance.  Around the bend. I fear I may have lost touch with who I really am and what I’m really made of.  I miss that feeling, too. 

So I would like to take a gander at those limits in 2015.  I’m not sure how, but I would like to get back there.

Wish me luck.  

Thanks for reading.

4 comments

  1. You’re cool and if I met you in person I bet I’d want to be your friend. You have something that many people lack… an inate desire to be and do better. And I’m right there with you, though my current challenges involve adjusting to being a parent, tackling copious amounts of laundry, fitting in some cardio and writing (in that order), and making friends in a new place.

    Wishing you success as you find your next challenge or as it finds you!

  2. Lulled
    Everyone has a comfort zone
    Worth considering: How hard (and how often) are you willing to get out of it?
    You can turn that into a habit if you choose.

    I’m in the same comfortable boat and trying to figure out how to jump out and start swimming toward shore. I read this snipit on Seth Godin’s website this morning. It says it all.

  3. Love your honesty, and your writing style! 😉 With you on “46” and the angst to be significant, relevant, and stretched. With your awareness of this, and your obvious passion for others, you will find that something in 2015! I can’t wait to read about it 😉

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