I have 3 mantras: less is more; you must start the way you want to finish; and, life is short but wide. As many of you know, I’m a planner. I’ve had my funeral folder since I was 19. Even with my good genes (my 98 year old father is still alive and kickin’), I know that, in the scheme of things, life is short. But, I also know it can be incredibly wide. In fact, my energy is not directed so much to extending the length as it is to expanding the width of my life.
I am constantly seeking new vistas in my learning. I am trying to expand my understanding of cultures and faith traditions. I am exploring new service opportunities. I remain curious about career trends even though I am in my 60s.
If you want to widen your life, you can do something quite radical like Max Hawkins, a Silicon Valley techie. He realized he was in a bubble—a very comfortable one at that—but he awoke to the reality that he was becoming isolated. Max said, “I just started thinking about these loops that we get into, and about how the structure of your life completely determines what happens in it.” In my words, his life had gotten incredibly narrow. So, how did he widen it? As a computer developer, he decided to create a series of randomization applications which took him on the ride of his life. It forever changed how he saw the world.
My personal journey has led me to work on a farm in Norway, sign on as a wilderness camp counselor in Colorado, enlist as a VISTA volunteer with a law & poverty center, invest 12 years in a non-profit in the Philippines, and move to an under-resourced neighborhood in downtown Durham. I’m finding that staying put in my neighborhood in Durham is even more expansive than living abroad…challenging and growing me in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
So, if you are looking to widen your world, what can this look like on a day-to-day basis?
- Join a book club which causes you to read books you would never pick up.
- Invite a newcomer out to dinner.
- Take a different route home. [It’s OK if you get lost because you are not really lost. Take it from me…a geography major...you are just temporarily disoriented.]
- Consider a new hobby or recreational endeavor that will widen your circle of friendships.
- Attend the services of a different faith community or tradition.
- Start a movie club.
- If 50+, sign up for an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute course or study trip.
Here are a few more suggestions from my colleagues in Work/Life:
- Take a Workaway vacation. For old and young alike. Want to consolidate your Spanish? Immerse yourself. When I checked, in Ecuador alone, there were 388 hosts listed. Who knew?!!
- Shop in international markets - there are a large number here in the Triangle. It is amazing how, when I walk in, I feel transported by the sounds of different languages and wonderful smells. I listen, watch, ask questions, and when possible, taste!
- Walk (or bike) in a new neighborhood. I find walking and biking causes me to slow down and appreciate things that I would miss while driving.
- Explore the music or dance of another culture. You can attend a festival or take a class!
- Try a Workforce Continuing Education Class at Wake Tech or your local community college. Learn photography, painting, cooking. I am taking a Spanish class just one night per week and enjoy the companionship of my classmates as much as learning a new skill.
- Switch up your commute by listening to podcasts. Use a free app like Acast to download podcasts. 99% Invisible, Stuff You Should Know, and Hidden Brain are all guaranteed to widen your world - and provide lots of fodder for future conversations.
What are you doing to widen your world?