MILLEDGEVILLE — I once read a book about milestones. For the life of me, I cannot remember the title, but the essence of the book was how we react at the various milestones in our lives.
Becoming a teenager is one such milestone; turning 16, then 18, and then 21. Each of us can identify with the reasons those ages resonate as special times.
Beyond 21, each decade marks a pathway into new and changing life experiences. Consider where you were in your life at 30, and 40, and even 50 — 50 — I could write a book about how the half-century mark has meant new and amazing experiences.
Of course I am a dreamer, always have been. According to Webster, a dream in this context is something you have wanted very much to do, be, or have for a long time. I’ll buy that except for the long time part.
I just think dreams are more easily realized than that, especially if you chase them at full speed. Two recent experiences worth sharing come to mind.
My nephew just moved to Nashville to pursue a music and song-writing career. I know that is a dream of his, and I have been an advocate for this journey since he left high school.
That may seem a little weird coming from an educator, but I have so much confidence in his talent that I figure he can always go back to the college thing if music doesn’t work out. I am convinced we expect too much of young people in their early years of the second decade milestone. There is so much time for trial and error. The trick is to keep the errors correctable.
Hold onto that thought. I’ll come back to it.
Last Sunday, I spent some time with my youngest son talking about what comes next for him. He is in the middle of his 20s milestone, married, and has the most beautiful son on the planet. Trust me on that one.
He messed around with college, had a bad experience, dreamed of selling new cars, learned he was better at college than he thought, finished a two-year degree, and just couldn’t leave that experience with a clear picture of the next step. So he joined the Navy.
Now he is at the midpoint of his commitment to Uncle Sam, married, and a family man. And he finds himself at that same milestone he faced at the end of his college experience. What’s next?
In thinking back to my own growing up experience, I left high school thinking I had no choice but to attend college — no defining experience — no summer in Europe to find myself — not hitchhiking across the country to see what I might stumble into.
I got a job, married, had a family, and did the company thing for 30 years. In my mid-30s, I finally had the courage to start chasing dreams; I caught a few, and I wouldn’t trade where I ended up for the world.
With that experience, I have tried to make my two sons believe that there is plenty of time to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. I figured each of them would know when it was time to move on.
At Christmas, my oldest son talked about how he is ready to finish his PhD and move on to the world of real money. It was cool to see him reach that milestone. He talked about his failures and successes, and very specifically mapped out the next 12 months.
I probably forgot to tell him, but I am more proud of the journey than the accomplishment. Watching him chase his dream has been fun.
So my little boy talked with me about knowing what he wanted the next steps in his life to be. I did what I always do and told him there was plenty of time to figure it all out, and without even having to think, he hit another milestone in his life.
“But, Dad, I don’t have plenty of time. I have a family and responsibilities.” At that point, I felt two very competing emotions. My heart leapt and broke at the same time.
My heart broke for the look over his shoulder where I know he must have thought his dream days are over. At the same time, my spirit smiled at the new dreams he must develop of a future that feels the responsibility for leading a family, for the urgency of caring for those he loves, and needing to be somebody in his own right.
So boys, if you read this, take if from a man who knows. There are so many dreams ahead of you, so many milestones to be experienced. The best advice I can give is chase your dreams at full speed — with just a little bit of caution.