Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Five Life Paths

I am a fan of categorizing things (bet you think this is going to be a terribly boring entry) and I find it very easy to compare things I see in my life to things I see in movies or stories. Or vice versa. Perhaps that's why I can really get drawn into certain movies. Like "Man on the Moon" which is about Andy Kaufmann who was this strange comedian who liked to mess with people. There were some moments where I was right there and could identify with where this guy was coming from.

I like things being defined. I like to know where I stand. I want to know how I can move from this position and move to a better definition.

Recently as I've been contemplating my next moves, I have thinking about where I am and where I should be. I know that various people are at different places and they are living their life with a certain level of success. However, success is defined differently by each individual as what they want out of life is unique.

It seems to me that in general, there are five different life paths that people choose from and pursue. These grow out of four basic ideals that a person may hold. People go about their lives advancing themselves down these four ideals with different focuses in the different areas.

The first is the Professional path where a person does what they do to earn money. This is their career. This is not a some job at the burger joint, this is their career. If these were defined by levels (I'm borrowing from video games here) then the lowest level would be doing a job that has nothing to even do with what you want or doing a job that means nothing to you. As you go up in levels here, it turns into you getting a career you want and advancing yourself in it. The advantages to focusing here is that it gives you income, a sense of belonging, and improve quality of life.

The second path is the Family where a person tries to pull together a home with a spouse and kids and a home. As people advance down this path, it goes through dating, marriage, kids, home and improving the relationships therein. The advantages here tap into the core of humans and that is that we are social beings, looking for people to love and be loved by and to leave a legacy of sorts. It also provides a sense of emotional security.

The third path is the Adventure path where a person explores the world around them and does things that expands their knowledge and experiences. This can be very open from people who go and do missionary work to people spending time in nature to going into places that a normal person wouldn't find themselves. The big advantage found here is the enlightenment and wisdom that is found in the unfamiliar as well as capturing the innate spirit of curiosity that a person holds. This is definitely the rarest path for a person to follow because of a lack of financial and emotional support. Although those wandering spirits out there get over that and thrive here.

The fourth path is actually not really a positive path, but is rather selfish and that is why I will call it the Selfish path. It is one where the person lives to fulfill themselves with things that are temporary but are more importantly immediate. They can usually be outright destructive, but can also be more subtle and corrosive. That said, they can also be used in moderation as a temporary relief. These things can range from things as simple as watching TV and playing games to full on drugs and buying prostitutes. Whatever brings relief. The danger here is that this lifestyle is a leach on the other good things in life. Used appropriately, it can help us cope in a world filled with disappointment and pain. People who focus there life here are usually plagued by a life unfulfilled, a life wasted or a life destroyed if it's really bad. Unlike the other paths, you want this one to relatively low.

Obviously, people are not purely defined by one of these paths, but people have one maybe two that they focus on and are doing well at. And all people have a different level in each of the four. And that's fine. But most everyone has one that is at an appropriate level. Maybe the Professional has a job in his chosen field and is doing well for that, but the one who has focused in the Adventure side for as long has a life with many interesting and good things too despite maybe not having the purchasing power of the Professional. They are both successful and content but for different reasons.

That said, a person who lacks one of these paths (with the exception of the Selfish path) may actually find themselves unfulfilled. Not necessarily, but possibly. It's common in a lot of movies. You have the married professional who is miserable because he feels like he missed out on his youth and goes on road trips or bangs the secretary or what have you in order to reach for the Adventure that he has been lacking. Or you have the successful playboy who is miserable because he has been missing love in his (which I am pretty sure that that is every single Matthew McConnaughey movie out there). Or you maybe you have the good old boy from the country who heads to the city and tries to make in the city and get a big time job. And if people do not bring in their lacking path, then they may turn to the easy, yet possibly destructive Selfish path.

This brings me to the fifth path, which is not really a path, but rather a lack of one. These people are the Bystanders. These are the people that don't really have a career, they don't really have a family, they haven't really ventured out, but they aren't really destroying their lives either. The difference between the Bystander and the Selfish is that they are in a relatively stable position in their life, whereas one who has embraced the Selfish lifestyle is in a place that might be harming their chances of success in the other three paths.

A Bystander, however, just does not have any advancement on really any of the paths. It's probably one of the hardest to be in as you get older because it doesn't seem like life is going anywhere. They may want to be more advanced than where they are, but things didn't land well for them or they wasted too much time. I feel I am in this category. Currently that is.

A person my age should be at a certain level in one of the three. Some friends of mine are literally doing the thing they wanted to be doing when they went to college and they are in their careers. They may be at the start of their careers and they can still move up, but they are there. Others my age are married and some even have kids, although I would say the no kids scenario is more typical. As for the adventure side, my friend Del has to be right in there as he has been to so many places and met so many people while others have travelled the world and been in the some of the craziest scenarios. Some friends are even up in two of the categories.

As for me, I am not doing what I really want to be doing and I didn't know for the longest time what I really wanted. I never had a super strong desire to go anywhere. As for the family thing, I mean, you really can't force that and frankly I don't know what I'm doing in that part of my life. I know I want to be married and have kids, but that doesn't mean anything. As for adventure, I would love to pursue that more, but I can't really mess around with that. I don't have anything to fall back on financially. To a certain degree, I think I have earned a few stripes in this category anyway.

What was the whole point of this long explanation of my weird understanding of things? Well, I mean isn't that the point of a blog? And secondly, I have woken up recently, looked around and have realized that life is slipping by me. I'm missing out somewhere and I don't want to do that. I want to be successful, I want to love, I want to adventure. And I'm not doing that. I am spinning my wheels.

Now it's time to suit up and figure out what to do before it really is too late.

"Life ends in a stereo, pack me up and let's go
Put me anywhere, please don't think of leaving me behind
Whatever happens to you, I'll get on just fine"
- "Stereo" by The Watchmen from the album Silent Radar

1 comment:

Krista Dwyer said...

I know I'm always harassing you to move out here kind of jokingly. However, there is truth to it. Maybe what you need is a fresh start somewhere else, a change of scene. I've picked up and moved a couple times in my life now and it's always benefited me greatly. I learned so much and grew so much as a person, met some amazing people. If it doesn't work out, you can always go home. At least maybe do a little travelling and see if there's somewhere that strikes your fancy. Or if nothing else, you're seeing the world and expanding your horizons. Maybe getting a new perspective? I think a change of scene does a lot of good when you're feeling stuck. Just something to consider. :)