(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

oh, to be relevant in this world.

or our world. or any world for that matter.

Commenced with the herculean attempt to catch up on a three month backlog of New Yorkers today. Decided to go backwards, so I opened the May 9th issue. oh what a frisson of pleasure it is to read this worthy magazine. oh my secret reveries of someday being published in *whisper* THE New Yorker. le sigh. but back to topic at hand. in talk of the town, reading a snippet entitled "Fish Story", discussing Ted Danson and his recent book "Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them". blah; no strike that ... all a most worthy endeavor and perhaps fodder for a future discussion.

but the masses pap TV series he is in "Bored To Death" discussion contained the quote which immediately inspired me. One small paragraph where Danson discusses his character, George, and how he relates to him. After reading it, I had to go grab my little ordi and start my random flow of randomness. hopefully it will lead to something.

ok, here it is. Danson shares that "The one constant in George is that desperate need of a sixty-three-year_old to still be relevant in the world."

this resonated not only with Danson, but immediately with me. First off, it makes sense, that view of someone beginning (optimistic view of today's youthful culture!) to age and the feelings of invisibility, irrelevance.

I have read many women who state this feeling ... the feeling of creeping invisibility as they lose that prime pitch of supple feminine youth ... I think this invisibility could also be categorized as relevance. For a women, her sexual vibrance and femininity often equates to her self-image and feeling of relevance in this world. I think discovering successful replacements for this external characteristic is key to a transition in self-image and confidence as we age. Not to mention the fact that older women can be some of the sexiest bitches on the planet. ha. but I digress.

So men struggle with this too. Albeit, likely later in the party than women do as it relates to aging and sexual vibrance. But also in terms of career, metiér, etc. As Ben Harper puts it, "there's always someone younger, someone with more hunger"...

Yes I see this in my daily life as well. like the fellows who are chafing at life's reins at the moment, lost. when I read this quote, I did think of those guys I know. In the context of this feminine characteristic I described (not solely feminine as I see it), they seem stuck in their self-image of the handsome playboy ... always a pretty young woman on their arm and yet a stable of every age standing by to dote on them as well. Their charm and devil may care attitude are magnetic and women are drawn to them like moths to a flame. Caught in that youthful pattern of greedily sampling all at the buffet, unable to say no until nearly sick and exhausted of the choices. As the years pass, all the dishes begin to look the same so the search for new temptations becomes more frenetic. None seem to satisfy. And somewhere along the way, the beautiful young women have found other options. The young loves they let slip through their fingers are now mourned. Greed having betrayed them, they find themselves sad .. alone .. and possibly, irrelevant because they have equated such superficiality to their personal relevance! all the while, seemingly oblivious to the many other qualities and capabilities that could provide longlasting and truly satisfying meaning in their lives.

I have seen this before, particularly with the fellows who have a fear of commitment. They have convinced themselves otherwise ... can't be "tied down", they are "free spirits" etc. They become stuck in this cycle and wake up one day, the laughing stock dude down at the dance club, trying to score girls 20? 30? or more years younger! sure they might from time to time, if their pockets are full. I sincerely hope my friends finally avoid this and find new paths to pursue.

But is the desperate need to still feel relevant in this world relegated to humans of a certain age? or is it what drives many of us? particularly the educated population of the world ?

Perhaps inspiring this need, the mere potential that all of us can find a way to be relevant in the world ... perhaps that could steady the world somewhat. When I reflect upon some of the greater nations in the world, my unscientific observation is those that invest in their citizens, particularly their youth through education ... these nations experience an overall uplifting of their population. Through education, lower and upper, we are exposed to ideas and possibilities. The broader the range of topics, the greater the chance that a grain will be planted that inspires a young individual towards a passion in life. some sort of relevance in their world.

when this doesn't happen, we find ourselves floating, hopefully treading water at least. but not finding a rewarding internal satisfaction that comes from ending the day having done something meaningful.

I have spent more years than I would have liked on the merry-go-round, unfulfilled. Even worse than to experience a desire to be relevant in the world is that absolute awareness that one's life pursuit is without meaning or real contribution. once you feel irrelevant and yet do not seek change, oh the internal misery! If it hadn't been for the gift of my two children and the knowledge that the earnings I received from my daily drudgery was allowing me to raise them with more options than I had ... well my desperation index would have been much higher!!!

and now. well these past few years have been a gift in terms of rediscovering my own relevance to myself. frankly , that is what I think is most important. eventually one might be relevant in one's circle. or community. or even the world. but first and foremost, we have to find our own self-relevance. and then live up to it.

spending a life seeking relevance on your friends' or society's measure is a false pursuit and can only lead to misery, unless you die clinging to your delusions. It takes courage to examine and embrace your internal purpose and desire, and then find the path to achieve them. In many of our cultures, you will be discouraged from your dream. you will be told you will fail. that you will be alone, an outsider. but that is mostly others' fear and envy speaking. just think, if you are finding relevance in your path less travelled, what does that say to the masses?

so in conclusion ... ha, what can I say? life's answers can be found in The New Yorker?! heh heh, perhaps. but also, to take the quote of Ben Harper a little further, "There's always someone younger, someone with more hunger. Don' t let it take the fight outta you". get out there and find your relevance.

peace out for now kiddos. I'm back!


Amy said...

I enjoyed this post so much, Kim. It's something I think about a lot, heading off to the next phase of my life - wanting to still count for something, amount to something...relevance is a good word for it. To think I wrote a song called "Invisible" when I was the decrepit age of...37! Ha! Glad you are back and catching up with spring reading.

SE said...

Once again, I find myself saying, yes, yes as I read your post. I have to wonder... is that sense of being invisible (especially for women)as we age as strong in France as here in the states?

Your point about education is interesting. In a time where we're slashing all education budgets, from schools to college financial aid, I feel some despair. The Republicans continue on with their anti-intellectualism (really, anti-thought) and I have to wonder what the result of all this will be.

Currently on the search for my new relevance as my two chicks leave the nest. This was an inspiring post- I'd love to hear more about your thoughts on this and any differences you see between US and France in how people handle this.

Anonymous said...

As an American expat in Ireland for the last 10 years, and now about to move to France, AND about to turn 55 this month, your post has great relevance to me! I have had a reinvention plan for some time, but find I cannot realize my plan as we must still have the support (money, what else?) that my current unhappy job brings. But I am struggling to make the transition. In some ways, I refuse to be or feel irrelevant, while at the same time questioning my relevance due to the creeping invisibility. Will we make it? Bien sur! Thanks for the thoughtful post.