Setting ever more challenging goals has never been an issue for me; I like to push my boundaries, stretch my capabilities, learn from the process. I like to dream big and then bigger still, striving to accomplish more, create more, revel in broadening my grasp of the world, of others, of myself.
I’ve been thinking about the plans I had for my life when I was younger — not a bucket list — but all the experiences I longed to try “someday” or the places I would visit “when I had the time and money.”
There is so much I have done that I never imagined, and of course, plenty that I have not attempted at all.
Once I considered parachuting — I was only 19 or 20 at the time — but I chickened out at the air field. (Looking back, I’m glad I did.)
The parachuting excursion was an anomaly. Although I recall one thrilling exception, generally my dreams haven’t included pushing boundaries into areas involving physical risk. I have no need to road trip on a motorcycle, pilot a plane, or scuba dive off the Barrier Reef. If these are your dreams, I say go for it! But me?
I wanted to learn languages and live life in other cultures. I wanted to create, and spend my days and nights with others who give themselves to creating. I wanted to love, passionately. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had a taste of each of these and in some instances, more than a taste. Also fortunate, my adventures took place when I was young enough to live them boldly, but mature enough to carry critical lessons into my “real” world.
Would I do more of the same, even at this age?
If it were logistically and financially viable, you bet.
I don’t want to become that person who shuts down as she grows older, who stops pushing boundaries as life begins to wear her down, who has been too long caught in the mad dash of everyday caution and constraint — trapped on a hamster wheel she never saw coming — like so many of us. And when “freedom” beckons, finally a possibility, the last thing she is concerned with is pushing beyond perceived limits.
This is about my comfort zone. This is about who I want to be. For me, these are limits of learning rather than running a marathon or taking up Tai chi.
We can be and are more resilient than we think.
While we may be slightly slower — hedging our bets, crafting contingency plans, pacing ourselves — much is determined by our willingness to be vulnerable and to push our boundaries.
Recently, a dream reminded me of something I thought I had banished to a neglected corner of my consciousness. It’s a simple thing really: the joy I take in reading and writing — all kinds of reading and writing. The dream was detailed and specific, filled with feverish hours at a desk, writing for fun. Likewise, the pleasure of reading rolled through the nighttime narrative, and not the news, which is so disturbing these days as to generate anxiety — but recreational reading, which quells anxiety and encourages the renewal of language-music, and, happily (for me)… optimism.
As I carve out time to recapture this passion I have nurtured since childhood, namely the pleasure in writing creatively, and dip a tiny toe in the dating waters one more time, I am convinced that we are capable of acquiring new skills as we age and refining existing skills. This includes strengthening the heart to enlarge its capacity to open, even after being hurt. It’s a matter of what we want, and how badly we want it.
So I ask you this. What boundaries have you forgotten to push? Whether in the realm of the physical, the cerebral, or the emotional, do you ever test your limits? Do you find pride of pleasure and accomplishment in doing so? Has the process of growing older freed you? Have life events freed you? Or have you been so long trapped in routine, running the race, that you’ve forgotten the how glorious it is to exercise your own elasticity?
My reality and possibly yours: Pushing boundaries means facing down fear. Some fears turn out to be unfounded, or the consequences we anticipate if things don’t go our way are far less onerous than we imagine.
In other words, we are not sacrificing reputation or life savings or physical safety.
Sure, we may need to wrestle with the potential of failure, but failure frequently leads us to push on in a slightly different direction and then to achieve success.
This is one of many life lessons that I’m working on these days — the importance of pushing through boundaries that are fear-based, taking risks that have little tangible downside, and visualizing a potential pay-off in discovery, achievement, and feeling more like the person I am at my core.
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