THE THINGS WE FEAR ARE ILLUSIONS.
As a kid, I would melt into the darkness shooting thousands of jump shots, spinning, and twisting, and dribbling on concrete and parquet wood to become a vision I had for myself. What was passion turned to habit. What was habit turned to grit. My grit forced me to stick through the hard times. The times when no one thought I would win.
What I learned along my journey was professional basketball was my identity.
But what happens when you let go of your purpose?
When you retire?
When you decide to stop doing something or being with someone you love, and change?
I wrote this thinking about my transition away from pro sports, thinking of the millions of people that fear what lies ahead, thinking about the people I know that are terrified to let go, just like I was.
You go on alone because you think you know there is no other way.
Instead of quitting, you drive forward. You push. You toughen. You are a man, after all.
You wake up and work for money because the world wakes up and does the same.
You question your work, your legacy, your purpose, but you need to live. You need to eat and survive so you exchange the paper currency you earn for the things you need.
What happens if you quit the purpose or routine you’ve known? If you leave, if you stay, if you transition careers, what will the exploration of your next self feel like?
What do you do when your purpose ends?
You see, there is a rising happening. Your soul wants more, but you can’t find the words or habits to get there.
Time isn’t fair.
It doesn’t care about you. Your questions. Your pain. Time is gaining speed and your belly shakes starts to tremble with fat, your hair falls out and the wrinkles around your eyes remind you of the neighbor’s pug, Rambo.
Age is a number, you tell yourself.
But you find yourself lost in thought, studying the plumes of towering clouds set against the orange-purple haze of horizon.
What else is out there?
How do you find it?
Shake it off.
Focus on what you can control, you tell yourself.
You feel shame and guilt when change comes, yet no one teaches us to unload our sins; to break the cycles of invulnerability. Instead, (especially men), you pay off your guilt with more masculinity and things, in the demonstration and reach of your bank account. In the success of your 401k. In getting to the destination of retirement.
Retirement isn’t easy either, my friends.
You haven’t felt what I’ve felt or lost what you’ve loved. Maybe you haven’t stared into the bottom of your soul, wondering, what now?
A black nothing eats at you.
Maybe you have freedom now, after all these years of work, saving, and investing, but it seems you have lost who you are.
Maybe you working hard for the American dream. These words will resonate with you.
You are climbing your boulders and moving your mountains.
You are successful.
You are winning.
You have a family.
You have cars and a cottage.
You have a wife that values you.
You are winning the first half of your game, but you don’t know what the second half is, do you?
Have you retired before?
Have you quit your purpose yet?
Have you lost your identity again, like those terrifying days when college ended and your career began?
Invert the things you know and think about your second half (of life), because the entire game changes.
When transitions happen, life says: find a new sport, kid.
The second half asks you the questions you’ve ignored. The questions that will make you anxious. Depressed. You will want to die from shame and guilt. You will feel unproductive. You will lose your team.
On the bright side, in the second half, you will know who your true friends are.
But you ignore those questions. Focus on the moment. Be present. You come home to play with your kids, and turn on the TV and finish your Netflix. You eat seared garlic butter asparagus and truffle oil pasta and remember why you work the way you do.
You have responsibilities.
You have payments and mortgages and bills.
You sleep early and wait for the sun to rise again.
Losing your love, or your purpose, you will die. The parts of you that you admired will die. Slowly, your future self will sink into the rounded back of a leather armchair. You will sip on an 64' Glenlivet whiskey and stare into the walls you built and wonder one thing:
Who will you will be next?
But you are old. The competitive drive is waning. The things you once bought don’t give you satisfaction. The last part of your life awaits your decision to change and explore something new.
Who are you?
A wet line of vulnerable tears dry slowly. The guilt and shame are still there. You feel it greater than ever. With no routine, no identity, no success, no oxygen feeding your gills, you sink, lifeless, and choke on the water that once fed your life.
See, society has trained you well, to believe you can’t lose who you are if you stay on track.
But that’s a lie.
There is an unease inside you. You age. You thicken. You ripen.
You wrinkled fool.
The clouds turn dark and your mind roils under a pressure to experience something new. You want to live and love passionately again. You want to deeply breathe the pine land scent and fresh water rain as you careen through the wild on a motorcycle towards a new purpose.
You see the bridge, but fear the cross.
A revolution is coming, yet you don’t realize your hands hold the musket and the flint.