When I was in university my father sat me down and ask me, "Audrey, what do you want to do with your life?" I quickly responded by saying, with a smile on my face, ”I want to have fun!”
My father was clearly shocked by my comment and as he pointed his finger at me, he stated angrily, "Life is not fun!"
That was over thirty years ago and I still hear him adamantly state that life is not suppose to be fun.
Against my father's wisdom, I have lived my life with the objective to enjoy it as much as possible. My father, although well respected in his profession, never really wanted to be a Warden of a Penitentiary nor an Ordained Minister. He did so to provide for his family. Leaving the ministry for a more financially appealing position in the federal penitentiary system, he retired after putting in his expected 30 years to get a full pension.
Was he content with his life? Yes, I believe he was. Did he follow his passion? No, he did not. He was a man of great theatrics and always wanted to be a trial lawyer (which does not seem fun to me but to each his own). Instead he chose what his parents wanted him to be (a minister) and what he felt like he needed to do to provide a comfortable lifestyle for his wife and children. Fun is a subjective word but do this day, I feel, my father did not find life fun.
I think back to the movie, About Schmidt, starring Jack Nicholson. It is about a man who retires after being in the insurance business for over thirty years. As he ponders his life he realizes he had big dreams when he was younger and put them aside to do, what he thought was the right thing to do. He chose to provide a good life for his wife and daughter rather than follow his passion of having his own company. Shortly after he retires, his wife dies, and he discovers that she had an affair with his best friend. When he tries to reconnect with his daughter, he realizes that they are estranged. It is a poignant point in the movie when reality hits him that his whole life was for the two of them and look where it got him. I won't tell you the ending because it is really sweet and quite thought provoking.
I thought of my own parent’s generation of post war and understand their philosophy of stability. Where my own baby boomer generation tends to think differently. We are living longer and we are no longer building our nest egg to leave to our children (sorry kids). We are building it so we can experience life, change careers, try new things, take risks and simply, have fun!
I know personally that being selfish comes with a little guilt. But, I have to ask, why is it that we consider being selfish to be a bad thing?
If you have flown you will understand this analogy. When the flight attendant goes through the safety procedures and instructs passengers about the oxygen masks, she will ask you to put on YOUR oxygen mask first before assisting others.
Life is like that. You need to look after yourself first before you can be a better parent, boss, spouse, or friend.
So be a bit selfish and have fun in life. Follow your passion! Explore, travel or take a cooking class. Take opportunities that come your way. Don’t give it a second thought. Just go for it! Your kids will be happier because you will have a smile on your face. Your spouse will be proud of you for taking a risk. Your friends will all start to live vicariously through you. And most importantly, you will be happier because you made your life fun!
Audrey van Petegem is an independent blogger that has been published on a variety of online magazine and blogs such as, Huffington Post, BlogHer, Elephant Journal and Midlife Boulevard. She describes herself as a book reviewer, midlifer and ponderer. As a baby boomer, she will be the first to tell you the good, the bad and the ugly about this stage of life. Follow her on Twitter @Audreyvp.