Are You Going or Growing?

Are You Going or Growing?

Once again, 4 year olds are amazing.  So yesterday, my adorable son, Eli, asks me, “Do bad guys have to stay bad guys?”  Me, a firm believer in a person’s ability to change their stars, replied, “Nope.  It’s never too late to become a good guy.”  We spent some time discussing the subject and then abruptly Eli informed me that as a rescue hero, he needed to rush off and help the next person in danger and thus our little conversation ended as he bound upstairs to see if there were any bad guys lurking up there.

Now, as I sit at my desk, reflecting on my son’s amazingness and our conversation, I keep thinking back to one part where he asked why a bad guy keeps on being a bad guy, and I said that sometimes it’s a choice they actively make – to do the wrong thing because it’s easier or serves only their needs, but that other times it’s because they don’t learn from their mistakes… they don’t grow.

Don’t just go through life – grow through life.  – Eric Butterworth

It’s often pretty easy to get caught up in the motions of going through life.  After college, the “wonders” of being an adult start to wear off (and for some of us, the wonders never existed).  Soon we are working 40 hours a week (or more), managing our bills and credit cards (often times not all that well), figuring out how to be in a relationship with another adult (and finding out that it’s harder than we thought AND that we aren’t necessarily all that and a bag of chips too as we had been led to believe), starting families, making major purchases like a car or a house, filing taxes (and graduating to something other than the 1040 EZ form), car maintenance, life insurance needs and retirement planning ,  meals, laundry… the list just grows and grows and at first you’re living for the weekend but soon you realize your weekends are full of responsibility too (mowing lawns, repairs, buying groceries, etc).  And before you know it, you’re just going through life on autopilot… or maybe it’s just me.

And don’t get me wrong, being on autopilot occasionally can be really nice.  For me, there are times when I just cannot stop thinking or worrying but switching myself to autopilot and cleaning the house allows my mind time to work through things without me analyzing the process along the way.

But going through life mostly on autopilot is not a good thing.  I think most of my early 20s was spent on autopilot, and I can tell you I made the same mistakes over and over again… Why?  Because I wasn’t growing with each lesson.  I wasn’t even aware that there was a lesson in most of the situations.   It’s easy to see things – the big picture – when you are on the outside looking in, but when you are smack –dab in the middle of the eye of the storm, it’s not always easy to see just how big and bad things are, where to go, or what to do.  I’d make one bad decision, realize at some point it was bad, perhaps get myself out of that situation only to rinse and repeat in one form or another… and I would be baffled as to why these things kept happening or why I couldn’t get ahead just once.  It wasn’t until I pulled myself out of the middle of the storm and started to do more than just go through life did I even begin to see the lesson that I needed to learn.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the lessons are only in the mistakes we make… because take it from me, they aren’t.   I cannot tell you the countless times something “good” has happened, and not only did I not “get” the lesson, there were many times when I actually took credit as being the reason that the good came about.  When I tried to replicate the situation and therefore achieve the good result, oddly enough, it didn’t work out the same as it had before, and I’d be disappointed, frustrated, and sometimes angry, but I didn’t see that once again perhaps I was missing the lesson the first time.

I wished I had kept a diary from my 20s or that I even kept one now – other than this blog and my Facebook status updates… I am really more of speaker than a writer – because I know that there are mistakes I am still repeating because I haven’t sat down and figured out what the lesson is and then made the appropriate course changes.  And now, I have a 4 year old son and a daughter due in March… and while I know they both will have to make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons, I’d like to think that many of my adventures and misadventures would be of benefit to them one day whether they asked my advice directly or read it in a letter.

Don’t just go through life – grow through life.  When I am 80 years old and some child comes to interview me (because you know all children get that assignment where they have to talk to an older person about what life was like or what wisdom they have to pass on), I want to experience that sweet smile many elderly get when they close their eyes and think back on their life and see the wondrous rings of growth like that found on a glorious redwood tree.


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