– originally published on September 15, 2017 – on Medium.com
What age do you think most effectively represents the term ‘middle-aged’? I would have to say…40! As I get closer to this age (I still have about 2 and a half years to go), I’m really starting to consider the fact that I’m closing in on the completion of the first half of my life. While that may sound heavy…maybe daunting, I hold a very optimistic perspective surrounding this time. And I remain so grateful for what I’ve found in the first 40 (37 to be precise).
However, as I’ve heard many people say things like ‘age is just a number’ and ‘you’re only as old as you feel’, I actually prefer taking a very realistic approach to reflection of the years, and acknowledge that 40 is huge…monumental! We can’t deny the fact that 40 remains a touchstone in time, and that it forces us to check our barometer to gauge what we’ve done with the first half of our life…and how we’ve set ourselves up for the 2nd.
So where does that leave me? Well…so many thoughts. I have been told so much that ‘life is short’. I can identify with that in a sense. On the other hand, it seems like I’ve already lived a lifetime up to this moment…and it feels great knowing I have another waiting for me. I’m not ignorant to the fact that tragedy or poor health can strike at any moment, but I only let that drive me to saturate my moments more so…and then soak them up with love, appreciation, gratitude, and reflection.
…it seems like I’ve already lived a lifetime up to this moment…and it feels great knowing I have another waiting for me.
I feel so fortunate for what I’ve done and seen thus far, yet, there are more items on my list. There are things I haven’t done…probably due to fear or prioritization or laziness…and I will not stand at 40 and regret those things. I don’t want to be saying, ‘I wish I tried…I didn’t think I could…I probably should’…you fill in the rest. Some of those items are public and may be shared, while others will remain more intrinsic, simply being worked out in my own mind. Whatever they may be, I’m using this moment to declare my dedication to starting on them. I can’t really judge my success on whether some are completed…but feel good about at least ‘trying’ or ‘starting’. Don’t get my wrong…I know the power of closing (and actually wrote this piece on it), but that’s not what I’m going for here. I’m more looking to try things that have been on my mind, and that I hope to still be enjoying even far into the second half of my life.
One area that I need to improve on is my documentation…or my record keeping of experiences. I wish I had pictures of certain times in my past…and I wish I started writing earlier. Well technology has certainly helped with this, and will allow me to effectively track my #roadto40. I’m going to be looking for a lot of feedback along the way, and will be reaching out to others during this project…in hopes to gain some insight. I also urge you to ‘try’ as much as possible and document your process somewhere. Please send me your thoughts and ideas along the way.
Something that I’m currently working on…is putting everything I’ve got into providing opportunities and love and lessons to my child, while also balancing it with continuing to dream and wonder and strive for my own self. We all want the best for our children, or that’s what we say at least. What’s hard to focus on though, is the fact that they are watching what we’re doing, more than they’re hearing what we tell them.
Just like the best way to teach empathy to our children is to model empathy in front of them…the best way to teach doing is to actually model it. If you want your child to try hard and give their best effort, you can tell them how you want them to do that, and the benefits that come from it…or you can get 10x the results by exposing them to areas where you give your best effort…to show them how hard you really try in certain areas. Then, you can reflect on how maybe you were uncertain about how your work would pay off, how difficult it was at times, how you wanted to quit but didn’t for many reasons, how good you feel about yourself now, and how you can now be very proud about what you created through that hard work. Do you see the difference?
The modeling gives the child incredible context within the situation. It illustrates for them that ‘this is what we do’ as a family. It becomes contagious to do, to execute. It becomes an expectation to follow your dreams. But not in a negative ‘you better do this or else’ way…it comes across as a message of ‘mom and dad want the best for themselves and for you. Let’s together, try to get that for each other!’
Consider the child that is only told that ‘the world is yours, you can do anything you set your mind to’. It’s really meaningless and holds no weight. They need to taste it…see it in action. They need examples, but not only from seemingly enigmatic figures like Lebron James and Taylor Swift. Those models are awesome too. But they need it in house, smaller scale, everyday…from mom and dad.
‘i want to be different. If everyone is wearing black, I want to be wearing red’ –
A couple of months ago, I came to the realization that doing something you’ve never done…as consistently and often as possible…can be really healthy for you. It’s similar to my thinking around living ‘on the edge of comfort’. And it’s all about continually challenging ourselves, and putting ourselves in positions to earn grit, to try, to do…to learn.
As I was reading yesterday, I came to another realization. Yes, you can call it an ‘epiphany’ if that’s how you roll. The people that are getting the most out of life…that are the most fulfilled and content…are doing what most other people won’t do, or aren’t doing. The folks who are trendy, or first to the party. The ones that are different, but intriguing nonetheless (first time using ‘nonetheless’…nailed it!). There seems to be success and fulfillment in practicing the actions that most other people simply don’t. We should all be trying to be part of the 1% crowd!
e•piph•a•ny – a sudden, intuitive perception of, or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
Being a 1 percenter (financially) has it’s own inherent connotations. Some of us believe that those folks make too much money, and that they owe more of their fair share. Others of us think that they create opportunities for the 99 percenters, and that their trickle down effect is truly beneficial to us bottom dwellers.
But I’m not speaking on financial earnings. I’m talking about our actions…our choices and our experiences.
There isn’t much interest for me in playing in the middle…in doing what everyone else is doing…in doing ‘what I’m supposed to be doing’. It suffices to say that there is much more intrigue in living on the outer edges…the fringes. And I’d go as far to say that better health, contentment, ‘success’, fulfillment, and overall happiness are found in living in the 1%
Here is an image, full of generalities, that should help illustrate my feelings here:
Considering all of that, a 1%’er is a person who chooses to live life on their own terms. They will live and die on their own sword. Instead of life happening to them…they are making their life happen.
I challenge you to create your own 99% and 1% column chart. Right now…write down 5-10 things you do that most of the population does. Then, write down the things you do that only 1% does. Use it as your journal entry for the day. What can you take from your chart? What can you learn about yourself? Are you playing in the middle too much…where everyone else is? Or, are you hanging out within that extraordinary population enough of the time? And…what do you feel about your actions, considering what side their on? Do your 1% actions bring you joy, vibrancy, passion, and love? Do they put you around people that are good for you? I bet they do!
Please share your chart with me, or any feedback from this in the comments, or on my Facebook page. I’d love to hear some results, and learn more about this! Here are some of my own results:
Some of My 99% actions
watching too much tv – March Madness, Celtics basketball, and I’m currently binge watching Breaking Bad for the 3rd time…oops.
Last year…on my 37th birthday…I published a piece called 37. It was basically stating that I’d be starting the process of documenting all of my writing. And it was thanking all of you for affecting and influencing me…however you have. Click here to read it.
I also wrote a piece on Medium this past Fall called #roadto40 – a Midlife Manifesto, in which I basically stated my commitment to a more deliberate way of living, with hopes of documenting my journey along the way. Click here to read that!
Now that a year has gone by, and I’m further down that road to 40…I figure I better check in with myself to see how the trip is going.
In one way, that 37 year contained so much. The days and weeks and months felt very slow, filled up…fulfilling. On the other hand, now that the year is in the past and I’m looking back at it, the time went so fast. Along with that, I didn’t get done as much as I wanted; my to do list actually grew. By the way, that was the first time I’ve used a semi-colon in forever. I am an English major, but still have no idea how to use one correctly. Please advise in the comments.
But yeah…my list! It’s fascinating that as we age and grow, we become more exposed to potentialities and opportunities we never knew existed. In a way, when I was younger, I thought I knew my options. ‘I’ll go do that, that, and that when I’m older,’ is kind of how it went through my head as a naive young man. But after I got to the first ‘that’, I found 3 others that I was interested in. And those took energy away from the pursuit of my original ideas!
This may seem obvious to you. It’s just how life is. It usually doesn’t go exactly as planned. And, we think we know more than we really do. I now have advice and lessons that I could tell my 20 year old self. What’s more interesting, is realizing that my 60 year old self will have far more lessons for where I am now. My recent focus on writing, on self exploration, on living deliberately…has provided me a truly humble and grateful perspective. One that allows me to more effectively understand the road I travel on.
Before I challenge myself with what is next on my current ‘to do’ list, I feel it’s important to reflect on the experiences of my 37 year. I will now detail that reflection within an interpretive dance. Hmmm…the upload isn’t working for that dance video…so you’ll have to use your imagination.
In general, I’ve really been able to focus on appreciating others during this year. Realizing how significant my relationships are, and how grateful I am for anyone who’s influenced me (good or bad), I’ve opened myself up to new opportunities (like I spoke about above), and actually discovered a love for others…instead of a fear that I once had.
Unfortunately, my own insecurities held me back, starting in my teens and sticking around far too long. I developed a dislikedness (my own word) for other people, which really stemmed from that fear I had at the start. I’m sorry for that. I hope it didn’t affect you at all. I used to want you and everyone else to lose…and for me to win. It was sad, and lonely.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still an introvert at my core. I need a lot of ‘me’ time…selfish time…to charge up…to center. It’s not natural for me to be ‘out’ all of the time, socializing, partying, connecting. That’s not me…and you won’t see me doing a lot of that. Interestingly enough, my #roadto40, my self-exploration has been effective in letting me be selfish. By thinking through and identifying what it is I really want, and doing that as much as possible, I’ve ‘got myself good’. I’m honestly now in a very happy place…more than I’ve ever been. I feel content, fulfilled. And what’s been refreshing through all of that, is that now…all I want to do is connect with others. I want to hear what you’re up to. I want to know your story. What’s your #roadto40 like? What is in your manifesto? I want to learn from you!
By the way, I also feel that I have something very beneficial to offer others, whether it be through my writing, or simply connecting some other way. I so want you to win too now…just as much, if not more than I want to win! And boy do I want to win! If there’s any way I can help someone in that…I want to be there, and I’m very serious about that. Please let me know.
This year, I want to connect more. I’ll be starting new projects in hopes to bring people together. I can’t wait to celebrate and learn with you. Please come join me if you can! I’ll be in touch.
I’ve also started writing a book. It’s been both very rewarding and challenging. I haven’t identified a date yet for when I want to be done…but, it’s certainly on my list.
Thinking about that, I have a favor to ask of you. Please tune in. Please follow me. I’ll never take it for granted, and so appreciate it. It’s very humbling that someone would choose to read something I wrote…or listen to what I have to say. Thank you. Share me, or recommend me to anyone who might get value from anything I’m doing. I really want to connect with more beautiful people, and that starts with you shooting out your webs!
Here are some things I’m up to currently…and where you can find me:
Cork and Crush Wine Club – I started tasting a different wine every week. Once I get my palate more educated…just kidding…once I get organized, I’m going to invite you to come join me. Stay posted here!
Dads and Daughters – I’m still in the developing phase of this…but soon, I’ll be starting a group for dads and daughters to meet up and hang out. I want to provide an experience to strengthen that bond, and to help build a community for us Dads to all learn within. Please contact me to be part of this.
Snapchat – it’s just fun! Come find me there @thorpedojam
Instagram – some pics, hopefully some inspiration…I’m loving Instagram stories right now! Follow me @thorpe42
Music! — I’m trying to learn guitar and voice. It’s a work in progress. I’m ‘under construction’ for sure. But I use my YouTube channel to challenge myself to keep learning and post a new one. Come listen!
‘every child is an artist. the problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up’- Picasso
*two books related to this topic…and that I highly recommend reading are The Global Achievement Gap by Wagner, and Home Grown: adventures in parenting off the beaten path, unschooling, and reconnecting with the natural world, by Hewitt.
As Matilda grows closer to school aged, I find myself thinking about her education more and more. She’s 4 years old now, and won’t be old enough for kindergarten until the Fall of 2018. So there is some time…but none like the present to consider options. I honestly haven’t made any conclusions about how I feel in regards to kindergarten and school yet. But I have read a bunch, spoke to some others about it, and think on it often. Hopefully, writing on the topic will allow me to explore it more deeply, and help define what I truly believe in.
While you may think I’m speaking of a Steph Curry ‘step back’ 3 pointer, I’m talking more about what I believe all of us ‘citizens’ need to practice before thinking about education. It’s a term that I’ll use to describe a pausing, stepping out of the box, and the employment of a wide and general perspective. You see, I never questioned school really. I’m not sure my parents did either. Maybe your parents didn’t. It’s just been accepted over time that school is where you go starting at age 5 and ending at age 18. It’s what everyone does. We’ve done it for a long time, and now you’re going to do it. But what does that allow our children? What does it provide them? How does it challenge them? How is it tailored for them? What will it prepare them for? And how will we determine their success within this institution?
It is pretty obvious to me that a student that attends 180 days of school (let’s say a first grader), will know more facts and things than a child that doesn’t go to school for that 180 days. The schooled student will test better, follow rules quicker, and be better prepared to take on the 2nd grade curriculum. They will be ‘ahead of the curve’ compared to the unschooled child. ‘Stepping back’ though…is saying ‘who cares’ to all of that. It’s saying, standardized tests are not what define my child. It’s recognizing that rules can be bent in life outside of school…there is always a loophole…and questioning everything is actually very beneficial. It’s submitting to the rat race of parent’s claiming high percentiles of where their child sits, admitting that the curve that we’re all trying to get ahead of is a slippery slope that doesn’t matter as much as we’re drilled to believe. Stepping back is believing that it’s ok that my child doesn’t ride a bike as well as other 4 year olds. It’s ok if my child’s reading level isn’t where the common core says it should be. I understand it’s difficult to be ok with that, especially considering societal pressure. But…we don’t need to constantly compare each to another…and rank accordingly. We all contain multitudes. These microcosms and measurements are small pieces of our entire selves.
6 hours per school day (approx) multiplied by 180 school days = 1080 hours per school year.
12 school years + kindergarten = 13 school years.
13 school years x 1080 hours = 14,040 hours of total schooling through completion.
Is it too much? Is it enough? Are the hours used most effectively?
The average American 15 year old spends about 5 hours per week doing homework…and since students with a more advantaged socio-economic status tend to do more homework than less fortunate students, ‘homework helps perpetuate existing inequalities in education’, says the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) researchers.
According to the Pew Research Center, the United States ranks ’38th out of 71 countries in math…24th in science…24th in reading’.
While there have been some very small gains since the 1990’s, standardized test scores in the US have gone down since 2013.
How are our schools failing us? How are they preparing our children for the unpredictable, ever changing future? Do test scores matter? Do world rankings matter? How are our children allowed to fail, and encouraged to try again…a different way?
Recent NH news has described how full day kindergarten will finally be funded here, as it passed through the NH legislature.
Having discussions with many parents about this, I’ve heard a common thread…and that is that the schedule of full-day kindergarten will allow parents to send their kids away without having to pick up or drop off midday. So basically, it’s the logistics that people are most happy about. This is just what I’ve heard the most…not the entire story.
I’ve also heard a bit of ‘my child will be more ready for 1st grade, which will then lead to future success’. This argument is somewhat obvious to me again…but another area in which I use the step back approach. Of course, any student that goes through the routine of a full day school schedule will be ahead of one that doesn’t. They will test better, follow rules quicker, possess a deeper understanding of how a school day functions, sit at a higher reading and math level, etc. etc. However, the ‘leading to future success’ part has been proven wrong. The intellectual and social/emotional gains from kindergarten are found up to a 3rd or 4th grade level. After that they drop off. So if we step back and consider what the real pros and cons of full day kindergarten are, there is more of a story that I need to be told. Some questions I have about it are:
How much ‘free play time’ will children have? What is the curriculum, and where I can I find it? What arts will be part of the school day? Is funding this thing with Keno (a lottery game that I believe is currently illegal in NH) a wise decision…sustainable…respectable? It feels…icky.
I don’t believe anymore in sedentary, sitting in the desk, receiving curriculum from the teacher, following structure and rules, no risk involved, being told how to think and learn. I know this isn’t every school and every teacher. There are so many good ones out there…and they make a difference. But the structure/institution seems to be broken…or lacking…and not providing the best possible return on investment.
Take a look at this kindergarten in Tokyo, and look how different it looks from something our children will receive. It’s experiential, creates wonder, involves risk, allows bending of rules, includes inherent challenges (physical and emotional).
I was a teacher once. I didn’t leave because I ‘disagreed’ with school. I had surely lost the passion I once had though, and was feeling totally burnt out, lacking resources, lacking technology, looking at a pay cut the following year, wondering how to best provide for my young daughter in the years to come, and trying to run a small business on the side. It was a multitude of variables pulling me away.
I was a student once too. I remember some good moments in elementary and middle school. I had some fun, and made some great connections with people. The early years of school felt easy to me. I got good grades, and I had good manners. On the other hand, I remember often staring off out a window, or at a wall. Not an inspired and dream-filled daydream. It was always filled with the thought, ‘when will this be over?’ I remember feeling insecure, especially as I got older and entered high school, not fitting in, not knowing where to sit, how to get along. Things became much harder for me then. I failed. I quit. Fortunately, I went right back and finished. But high school is a sad memory for me, and very negative. I envy others when I hear they loved high school so much. I’m happy for them, but that is foreign to me.
I’ve recently became infatuated with this idea of Unschooling. It’s not homeschooling, with a curriculum and standards. It’s simply not going to school…and allowing the parent and child the decision on what to learn, when, and how they want to…ultimate freedom. It sounds scary at first…and those thoughts of meeting grade level standards, keeping up with the Jones’, and how will my kid be successful with that? start to creep in. But if we step back, we can accept that those worries don’t truly hold weight. They don’t define us as individuals when we leave school anyway….and the same questions can be asked of a schooler…with similar validity. There are so many other meaningful experiences that can be had within 14,040 hours, that may lead to more influential lessons learned.