Sometimes you hear something that just makes you stop what you’re doing and reflect on things for a while. No matter how long you think about various things in your life, there are certain words that just hit you really hard and cause you to either think about something in a completely new way, or crystalize a feeling you’ve always had deep down inside you. These aren’t usually life changing words, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you have a moment of clarity.
Henry David Thoreau is one of the most well known writers in American history. Most of us don’t know any of his works, but his legacy is so strong that even most uneducated people at least know his name. People like this leave us with pearls of wisdom just like the title of this article. There is something powerful in such a simple phrase that speaks to us on another level. You hear it and it calls to your soul.
Of course, this wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this quote. There have been many times in the past that I’ve come across it, either through reading or in media in one form or another. It is a well known quote and is used to describe something that many people deal with every day: lost dreams. These kinds of phrases resonate with us so powerfully because they speak to something very real in our lives that affects the very core of our being. Those are the things that simply can’t be denied.
What really sparks these feelings is when we look at ourselves and realize that we aren’t living the kind of life we wish we could. It doesn’t matter if you have fame or fortune, or if you are popular or powerful or any of the things that society has claimed we should want. None of these are the things that make us feel like we’ve truly made it in the world. There is nothing so shallow that can save us from the desperation of the unfulfilled life.
The only escape from this desperation is finding something in our life that gives it meaning. Money is great, and can certainly help us try out many different things in the hope of finding something that does it, but money by itself is useless. The same is true of power, at least when that power results in relationships based on fear of consequence rather than true respect. Fame is the worst way to try and fill the hole inside, as there is no intimacy with the people who fawn over you. It is empty.
Mostly, though, it is those of us who struggle at the bottom of society who quietly despair through our lives, unfulfilled with the grind of life absent some sort of meaningful purpose. Being proficient at a thing simply isn’t enough. We need to feel as if we are leaving a legacy, and that can only happen if we are doing something that resonates with the people around us. It is in the thoughts of others that we ultimately escape the despair.
Like most men, I struggle with the despair of my wasted life. I am attempting to break the chains of that horrible feeling and step out into the light to make something meaningful, but decades of playing it safe out of fear makes it really hard to do. What I do know is that I’m tired of that feeling and it’s past time to shove off the despair and start living the life I’ve always wanted. The trick is just figuring out how to do it.
What do you think about living in despair? Do you think the people in your life quietly suffer with how their lives turned out? How can you support your friends and help them to seize the kind of life they really want? What would you need to do the same? We live our lives in quiet despair because we are too afraid to make a move, and no one around us is brave enough to encourage us to act. How much better could our lives be if we all carried each other forward?
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