Changing oneself...and getting used to it.

Hi all. I can’t seem to sleep and am in a reflective state of mind. So much change has happened in my life over the past year and a half. I feel overall much more satisfied, and while I would say staying happy is daily pursuit which requires me to be responsible to how I handle myself and time…sometimes I get this feeling of…have I changed myself too much? Have I wandered from some sort of original path? And am I becoming too scattered in my interests and pursuits?

So much good has happened over the past year and a half. I’ve lost weight, had some more experience with women, moved into the city, obtained a new job (which is high stress. It’s a short term job until June…I sort of look at it as an experiment and a chance to increase some skills), and taken up dance (which I LOVE). I could write a whole thread on how much I enjoy dance (mostly West Coast Swing…so much fun)

Now my life hasn’t been consistent. I’ve moved around, had many different jobs (in the same field though), and I’ve tried lots of different things (travel, music, dance, academic classes in math). I feel like life is this giant universe of exploration…and that I want to continue to explore until I really feel I “know” the absolute best activities for me. But hence i have this feeling of being too scattered and perhaps not as focused as I should be. I’m 31 years old…and sometimes I feel like I’m acting like I’m 25. I also feel like my identity has changed and that It’s something I’m working on getting used to (and having others understand). One of my goals has been to get myself to be more “in the moment”. I feel I’ve grown considerably in that regard.

I could have spent my life just on performing music…but I remember being 24 and thinking that I hadn’t explored life enough and was depressed about it. Now I have this flip feeling like maybe I should have just really focused on one thing and have been really good at it. I still love music, and I still perform and teach…but I could have developed it much further Again though…I would not have learned how much I enjoyed other forms of musicality, nor would I have understood how to interact with children (and adults) as much as I have without being a teacher. I feel more broad right now, and less specialized. Anyone else ever feel like they are having a hard time being comfortable with new uncovered aspects of their identity?

I hope you don’t take this as a criticism, but I believe there’s such a thing as being too self-aware. I’ve read many of your posts over time and I have some very little sense of the turns and highs and lows you’ve described about your life. I suppose some people have to deliberate very intensely when considering the choices they face in their life, while others seem to fly by the seat of their pants. You’re very much in the former category, and that’s okay. So if you feel the need to frequently take stock of your life, do so. But keep in mind that there’s not enough time in life to explore every single path that interests you. Often you have to accept that there are things you’ll never get to experience or master. Life is full of these compromises and wistful regrets (e.g. if only I’d studied harder and attended naval medical school, etc.).

I have no secretst to share or wisdom to impart to you. At 31, you’ve got a bunch more life ahead of you, and it will kick the shit out of you and lift you back up more than you might imagine. Try to enjoy the ride when you can and don’t let the bastard (or the lifestock) wear you down.

Who are you comparing yourself to? You don’t name names, but it sure sounds like you’re stacking yourself up against someone else–or a group of someone else’s–and telling yourself yet again that you are “wrong”.

Firstly, stop worrying about how old you are. Think back to the first time you said “I’m too old to be doing this”. How old were you at the time? 25? 28? Don’t those ages seem young to you now? I remember feeling like I was too old to be stomping around Florida marshes and swamps when I was 30. As a 36-year-old, now I realize that was ridiculous. I was young then and I’m young now. There is no time limit on finding where you want to be in life as long as you’re paying your own freight.

It seems as if you’re worried about two things. 1) Being a chameleon and 2) being a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. The first worry I can personally identify with. Over the past six years, I’ve been intentionally trying to improve myself, and with lots of success. I used to suffer from cripping low self-esteem. Now I have to reign myself in so I don’t look like an arrogant jackass. Socializing used to be a dirty word for me. Just seeing people’s smiling faces would make me want to throw something. Now I’m buddy-buddy with a group of people at work, and I don’t want to automatically kill people who just wants to chit-chat (though I still have my moments!) I used to devote hours and hours to artwork every week, and now it’s down to just “hours” as I try to fit other experiences into my life. I used to be so depressed and crazy that I couldn’t allow myself to plan for the future. Any long-term dreams I’d have would fizzle out the moment I’d stop ovulating! But as soon as the new year came around, I was able to sit down and think about what I want to accomplish this year and I’ve been able to stick with it, so far. So I definitely feel like a “new” person.

It’s great, but it does feel weird. I’m always worried what will people think if they hear about how I used to be? Or what if I decide the new me is a bunch of crap and I go back to how I was. But then I remember people who are flexible and dynamic and hard-to-pin down NEVER GET OLD. Their bodies might, but their minds stay fresh and sharp, and they themselves never get too cynical or jaded. When I remember this, then I’m almost glad to be a chameleon. And I also try to remember that everyone else is changing too. It’s just that I notice my changes more because I’m living them.

The jack-of-all-trades worry is valid too. But the world needs jacks-of-all-trades. That’s the very definition of a “renaissance man”. And just because you learn new things doesn’t mean you still don’t have an area of expertise. It’s just that you’re not an idiot savant with it. Again, it sounds like you’re comparing yourself to a standard that either doesn’t exist or isn’t important. Stop doing that so much and maybe you’ll find the happiness you’ve been looking for.

Just jumping in to second both of these points.

On the second one, stop worrying about your age. It’s just a number, that’s all. I went back to school to get my doctorate at 34, knowing I’d be somewhere in the 38-40 range by the time I was done. I didn’t go to work for my current employer until I was 44, didn’t find my way to my current job in the organization until I was 51, and have only really been kicking butt in my job for the past six years or so (I’ve just turned 60). Still very much growing in what I can do.

Oh yeah: became a father at age 55 when my wife and I adopted the Firebug. OK, that one’s pushing the envelope a bit, and it helps that I come from long-lived stock; men in my family tend to be robust until >80. Most people should have kids somewhat earlier if they can.

But you get the idea: you can’t judge yourself by someone else’s calendar. When my father was 60, my siblings and I were all grown and well into our careers. At the same age, I’m at a very different place in life. It doesn’t matter: I’m in the life I want to be in.

Which gets me to the first point: you can’t stack yourself up against anyone else, or some picture in your mind of what you are supposed to be doing, or how to live your life. I can sympathize, because I had a picture like that in my mind through most of my 20s that I’d internalized, and it took some serious work to shake it and start being me.

You’re the only person who will experience the joys and pains of being you. So you might as well be you, and not try to be some idea of what you think other people think you should be.

What makes you fulfilled, what makes you whole, what makes you strong? Be who you are. Do those things.

When you meet a stranger at a party and they ask you “what do you do?” what is the answer you want to give?

Not the stock answer you always give, but the one true answer that you want to give that is coming from the heart.

I believe you should follow that instinct.

It gets easier. I lost 120 pounds 5 years ago. I had to change everything to do it, and everything around me changed after I did. It was a profound experience. But 3-5 years later (depending on how you are counting), it’s settled in, and the new me feels like the real me. All my important relationships came through intact.

I liked the Op’s post. I think what he is experiencing is the process or rewiring his brain. Several successes in a row have rewired his nuerons to respond positively to change or even the idea of change. The pleasure chemicals seem to be kicking in and he has found a way to stimulate them. That can be addictive and lead to obsessive behavior but in most cases I think it is just a process of growing. More exposure gives us a better chance of connecting with something we can really excel at, most of us recognize that when we find it.