Thursday, January 20, 2011
Ditching the Prevent Defense
Lately, I have been a little bored with my life. Not in the “chuck it all, have an affair, buy a sports car” kind of way. And certainly not in the “murder someone, use his body to fake my own death, burn down the house to char the body beyond identification, move to the Andes of Peru, learn Quechua, and make a new start” kind of way.
More in the “everything is going alright, my job is good, my marriage ain’t perfect but it’s okay” kind of way. It’s the kind of boredom that feels like a low-level cold. You know the kind where nothing’s really wrong, but nothing’s really great, either. There’s no fever, no aches or pains—just an occasional cough and a feeling that I maybe don’t have as much energy as I used to.
In the past, if this feeling persisted I would just move. This feeling is what led me to join the Peace Corps in 1987. It’s what led me to move to Maine in 1991. And it’s why I moved to Montana in 1993.
After that particular move, life became fairly eventful for a long period of years. I met my wife and got married in 1996. We moved across the country and I started a new career as a classroom teacher in 1997. In 2000 we had a child. In 2003 we moved again to a new state and started new jobs. Life, and its changes, just kept coming.
And now, here it is almost eight years later and I haven’t had any huge changes in quite a while. I like my job. I teach at a progressive school with great kids and a ton of freedom. I like my daughter a lot. She is an amazing kid who surprises me all the time with her humor and her insights. I like my wife. She makes me laugh and keeps me on my toes. And she wants the best for me.
But in spite of all this adequateness, I feel like I have stopped growing. I fear I have stopped changing—maybe, in fact, BECAUSE of all this adequateness. There has not been any one thing that has been terrible, so therefore there hasn’t been any big motivation for me, (with my tendency to avoid changes), to shake anything up too much.
It feels like I am a football team with a small lead early in the third quarter. I have slipped into a prevent defense rather than sticking with the strategy that has gotten me the lead. My motivation has shifted slowly—almost imperceptibly—away from winning the game and toward not losing the game. It’s a small shift, but one that in the end changes everything. Instead of going at life, I am sitting back and reacting as life comes at me. Instead of seeking out new and challenging experiences, I am consolidating my gains and letting life happen around me.
I have I heard it said that “there are no boring things, just boring people.” And I am realizing that, for many reasons—(including, but not limited to, the fear of job burn-out, the fear of losing a good partner, and the fear of being BORING)—I need to make some changes. You know, that’s not really right. I mostly need to get back to my original self before I took on all these responsibilities and “shoulds” and stopped simply living. So, this winter has become the season for me to face this boredom head-on and let my team just play the game that got them the lead to start with.