Monday, August 8, 2011

Life or Something Like It

What defines a life? Is it the sum of one's experiences, the quality of one's relationships, or something in between? As an introvert, I've never thought of myself as a people person. But when I look back on my life so far, I realize it hasn't been so much about what I've done as who I've done it with. I think we forget that sometimes as a species. We want to quantify things. We set goals and make bucket lists, we convince ourselves that if we can just accomplish ABC, then we'll be happy, or that we need to do x or visit y before we die. But what about the small town citizen who doesn't make it out of her home state, or win a Nobel Peace Prize, but has a supportive and close knit circle of family and friends? Assuming that person is happy, even through sheer willpower, can you really say that such  a person never lived because she never stood in Times Square? I wouldn't.

Please understand that, in no way am I knocking experiences. I'm incredibly grateful, for example, that I have had the opportunity that I've had to travel abroad and see certain bands live. Even some of the more painful stuff I've been through has been beneficial in terms of helping me to appreciate what I still have and increasing my reliance on the Creator.

I guess one of the questions that I'm currently living is, at what point do you say no to a new experience, no matter how appealing it may seem? I'm not talking so much about choosing not to experience, say, cocaine, but more gray area stuff...experiences that might bring you a sense of ephemeral happiness but at the expense of existing relationships? Where does one draw the line?


  1. Good questions. I think it depends on what relationships will be affected. I would never do anything to put my inner circle of friends at risk, but at the same time they are supportive of me and would only disapprove if they thought I was doing something destructive. I'm not too worried about the outer circles. If the experience is right then I believe it is worth the risk.

  2. Good points, Rich. Since writing this post, I've wondered if perhaps I've drawn too deep a distinction between "experiences" and "relationships". After all, a relationship can be an experience in and of itself. I respect risk-taking, but also feel that there's an argument to made for contentment. I don't think that contentment has to equal complacency or stagnation.

    That being said, if someone feels stagnant in their station in life, then sometimes a life change is in order.

    I would argue that the best experiences tend to be shared ones, at least coming from my background and perspective. Maybe I would feel differently if I pulled a Thoreau and retreated into the woods.

    I've lived independently and interdependently, and I think both has its pros and cons. But that's a blog post for another time (note to self).

  3. I agree about shared experiences. There is nothing worse than reading a book or watching a film that no one else has read or seen. (I guess there are a lot of things worse...)

    I enjoy your site. Thanks for writing.