I have this recurring daydream about blowing up my life and moving across the country to start over under an assumed name. Sound familiar? It’s not uncommon for ladies our age to find ourselves kind of, well, bored and restless. We’ve given so much over the years to our families and careers that we’ve forgotten how to dream. We have so much pressure on us to keep the status quo, to remember to send those birthday cards and make something for that potluck and schedule vet appointments. Life can start to feel like one big to-do list; we can start to feel like our only purpose on earth is to keep the house relatively clean and the bills paid. This can understandably lead to some major discontent, and it can sometimes feel like the only answer is to BURN IT ALL DOWN.
The problem is that the short-term excitement of making big, sweeping changes can often lead to more stress, more headaches, and eventually, you’ll end up right back where you started because you haven’t solved the problem. You’ll still be YOU, just living in a different state and calling yourself Amber. Think of the hassles at the DMV. Not to mention, you could end up in jail for arson and insurance fraud. It’s just not worth it.
If you’re truly in a situation where you wake up miserable every day, then yes, maybe you need to consider big changes. Talk to your pastor or your physician or a counselor and do what you need to do to make things right. There is no shame in asking for help!
But for the rest of us, getting out of a rut doesn’t have to be that difficult. It can be as easy as adding more to your life that gives you pleasure. You have to get back to the dreams you had as a little girl, before you met that high school teacher that told you to study accounting because the odds of you supporting yourself as a backup dancer for Madonna were slim to none.
Now I’m going to be perfectly honest: if your dream was to be a prima ballerina, and you’ve never taken a ballet class, and you are older than, say, eight, there’s a good chance it’s too late for that particular dream.
Let me amend that: it’s too late for that dream in that format.
But you know what? You can still dance.
You could take those dance lessons you always wanted and dance for your health and enjoyment. You could get a couple of friends together and start a Friday night dance club. You could teach dance at a senior center or a preschool. You could enter a local “Dancing with the Stars” charity competition. There are lots of ways that you can incorporate dance into your life. It may not pay your bills (or then again, it might), but it can bring you some joy. And once you take some little steps into that world, you’ll meet like-minded people. Opportunities will present themselves that you could never have imagined.
Whatever it is that you are craving in your life, you can create it. Art, music, culture. Dance, fitness, health. Adventure. Romance.
Yes, romance. You might be saying, “But I’m single, Denise! I’m not seeing anyone, I’m not meeting anyone, I’ve tapped out of FarmersOnly.com, and I have zero prospects on the horizon. How can I create romance all by myself?” I hear you sister, and I’m not promising you Prince Charming, I’m saying you can create a more romantic life. Buy yourself a dozen roses. Fill your bathtub with bubbles and light some candles. Wear pretty silk underwear. Stay at a boutique hotel instead of a Hampton Inn on your next business trip. You can create a romantic life for yourself until your next love comes along.
What if you’re not sure what’s missing? What if you are so out of touch with your wants and needs that you don’t even know where to start? Then you need to take baby steps, my friend. Go on a journey to see what catches your eye.
Browse the catalog for your community college and find one new class that excites you, or check out an online resource like Skillshare. Go to the bookstore or library and wander around until you find something – anything – that sounds interesting. Don’t put pressure on yourself to find “the one.” You aren’t making a lifelong commitment; it’s just a book. It may not be the solution, but it might lead you to another idea. Keep following the thread. Be curious. Be open.
Here’s another reason why it’s good for you to learn new things: it keeps your brain young. Studies show that learning new skills can help to ward off dementia, or at least slow the pace. If that isn’t a good reason to take Thai cooking lessons, I don’t know what is.
Getting out of a rut doesn’t have to require extreme changes. Think about what might make you happy and explore. Get out of your head and try something new. You don’t have to start over; start where you are and add to it. Don’t say you don’t have time – you do. Make a commitment to get up a little earlier, or skip a little television. Television only makes you buy the idea that the rest of the world is having more fun than you are, anyway. Give your precious attention to your own life and your dreams.
Life is short. Fill it with the things that make you happy.