35 More Inspirational Quotes on Happiness, Following Your Dreams & Generally Kicking Life’s Ass

From time to time, I share a quote on my Twitter or Facebook page I think will help make your day (slash-life) a little better. I’ve built up quite a collection of these quotes, so I like to drop them on you en masse occasionally — consider it my contribution to whatever goal you’re currently fighting for or obstacle you’re currently fighting against.

To make them easier to share with anyone you think could use a jolt of awesome, I’ve also included an easy click-to-tweet after each quote. (You’re welcome.)

 

Happiness

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” ~Margaret Lee Runbeck (Tweet!)

“I have decided to be happy because it’s good for my health.” ~Voltaire (Tweet!)

“If you want to be happy, be so.” ~Kozma Prutkov (Tweet!)

“Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.” ~William Feather (Tweet!)

“Happiness is an inside job.” ~William Arthur Ward (Tweet!)

“Happiness is a choice.” ~Valerie Bertinelli (Tweet!)

“Happiness depends more on how life strikes you than on what happens.” ~Andy Rooney (Tweet!)

 

Blazing Your Own Trail

“I like things to happen, and if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.” ~Winston Churchill (Tweet!)

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” ~Walt Disney (Tweet!)

“Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” ~George Bernard Shaw (Tweet!)

“I’ve never heard a bird half sing, a hawk half cry. When ready, speak your truth with conviction.” ~Dave Ursillo (Tweet!)

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” ~Max Dupree (Tweet!)

“Be a voice, not an echo.” ~Albert Einstein (Tweet!)

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” ~Richard Branson (Tweet!)

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” ~Jim Rohn (Tweet!)

“When in doubt, yell, ‘CHARGE!’ and then MOVE. YOUR. ASS. AND. MAKE. IT. HAPPEN.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

 

Following Your Dreams

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” ~Zig Ziglar (Tweet!)

“Good things come to those who wait. Greater things come to those who get off their ass and do anything to make it happen.” ~@LifeCheating (Tweet!)

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” ~Thomas Edison (Tweet!)

“The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes (Tweet!)

“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.” ~Tony Gaskins (Tweet!)

“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” ~Paul Brandt (Tweet!)

“The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something.” ~Seth Godin (Tweet!)

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” ~Wayne Gretzky (Tweet!)

 

Overcoming Adversity

“There are two things a person should never be angry at — what they can help, and what they cannot.” ~Plato (Tweet!)

“At the end of the day, no matter how many times the lawn is mowed, it doesn’t take it personally — it just keeps on growing.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get.” ~Ray Bradbury (Tweet!)

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” ~Jim Rohn (Tweet!)

“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” ~Charles Swindoll (Tweet!)

“If it isn’t a little scary, it probably isn’t worth your time.” ~Ted Murphy (Tweet!)

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~Nelson Mandela (Tweet!)

“Fear is not a bad thing, it can keep you alive. The trick is to make sure it doesn’t stop you from living.” ~@RevolutionsClub (Tweet!)

“It’s not the person who dodges the most bullets who wins. It’s the person who finds something useful to do with the bullets, after the shots have been fired.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

“The darkest hour has only sixty minutes.” ~Morris Mandel (Tweet!)

“Learn to embrace fear, because it’s often the only thing that’s between you and what you want.” ~Paula Pant (Tweet!)

What are your favorite quotes? Share them with us in the comments!

Image:  Pink Sherbet Photography / Flickr

Embrace Whatever Makes You Happy (Even If It’s Totally Weird)

I wished I loved anything in the world as much as my current foster dog loves this one janky, busted-ass tennis ball.

Mocha has a plethora of toys at his disposal, including several he’s gutted in a spree of delightful destruction that have since been retired to the trash can. But I can’t trash this ball, because for some reason, in spite of its having lost nearly every trait that makes a tennis ball entertaining, it’s still his absolute favorite toy in the world.

At first, its appeal made sense: Mocha wants to play, Mocha gets the tennis ball and brings it to us, we throw the tennis ball into the hall, he retrieves it and the whole thing starts over again. Sometimes we throw it in one direction and it bounces into the bedroom. Sometimes we throw it in another and it caroms into the kitchen. Thrown at full speed, it can lead a dog that’s chasing it across pretty much the entire length of our tiny little house. Whether I’m working or watching TV with the husband, this game is something we can play with Mocha ad nauseam, which is merciful because Mocha has some serious bursts of energy and our two senior dogs are not down with being his roughhousing buddy.

But the tennis ball is no longer what it once was.

happy

In addition to its service as exercise tool, it’s also played the role of chew toy when we’re not available for fetch games, and as such it’s been slowly and methodically stripped of all of its fuzz in several mysterious grooming sessions. A few especially emphatic chomps split the ball straight down the middle about a week ago, so it now hangs open by one last, tenuous seam like a clam that’s been stepped on. When we throw it now — which Mocha still insists we do — the ball no longer bounces and caroms delightfully down the hall and into various rooms at a speed that invites happy chasing. It just kind of thunk-womp-womp-wobbles to a spot a few feet away and then lies there like a slug.

Mocha still dutifully runs after it, as much as he can in the few feet it’s rolled, then turns tail and brings it back to us so we can toss it again. When he gets tired, he lies down and continues to meticulously destroy it just a teensy bit more.

I totally don’t get it, but I don’t really need to. He gets it, and he clearly thinks it’s awesome, and that’s good enough for me. In this — as in so many things I won’t get into because I am a crazy dog lady and could talk about lessons our dogs teach us for forever — I believe there’s something we can learn from our four-legged friends.

 

In Defense of the Things That Make Us Happy Weirdos

Much like Mocha’s sorry-looking tennis ball, we all have things we love that other people are somewhat mystified by. But unlike Mocha’s unabashed enthusiasm for an object the rest of us see as questionable, we tend to keep our unusual loves a secret only we (and possibly a few close friends who already know what weirdos we really are) know about.

Whether it’s a love for an unconventional hobby, an un-hip band or a cheesy reality TV show, most of us try to keep our stranger passions to ourselves. If we indulge in them, we do it behind closed curtains and behind the facade of the more acceptable, cooler interests we present to the world at large.

But here’s the thing: everyone else in the world at large is secretly a weirdo, too. (Tweet!)

That super-poised colleague who intimidates you at work? She psyches herself up before big meetings by listening to Katy Perry’s “Roar” on her earbuds in a stall in the bathroom.

That hipster friend who sneers at anyone who has anything to do with mainstream culture? He has a secret collection of Walker, Texas Ranger DVDs — and he doesn’t watch them ironically.

That Crossfitting, Paleo-proselytizing sister of yours has had a secret addiction since she was a kid, one she still dips into when she’s had a particularly rough day: Cap’n-Crunch-and-Pixy-Stix sandwiches, smushed together just the way she saw Ally Sheedy do it on The Breakfast Club, where she first picked up the habit.

None of us is a 100% “normal” human being, because “normalcy” is a shadow term that means, at best, “what most people tend to do (as far as you can tell), which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good or bad, just that most people tend to do it (as far as you can tell).”

So screw your secret shame over your oddball hobbies, habits, loves and fandoms. Screw feeling embarrassed about the things you think only you “get.” Because as long as you “get” them, then they are awesome, and that is all that really matters.

What weird things make YOU secretly happy?

(I’ll get it started: I love juggling sock balls while folding the laundry, dancing like a fool to any form of old skool hip hop, and sniffing the tops of my dogs’ heads the way normal people sniff babies’ heads (which, let’s be honest, isn’t any more “normal” than sniffing a dog).)

Image:  Pink Sherbet Photography / Flickr

The Way Things Are Isn’t The Way Things Have To Be

Recently, I wrote about the importance of the stories we tell ourselves about our lives. The way we cast ourselves (victim, reject, center of the universe) affects the way we experience the world. If we think everyone’s against us, we’ll keep seeing things that reinforce that story. If we think we’re better than everyone else, people will constantly let us down. We react to things based on the story we believe about our world, and as a result, we wind up perpetuating the story by playing along with it.

But there’s a bigger story, a story so hulking and omnipresent it warrants a post in itself. It’s a really shitty story our whole society has deluded itself into believing. That really shitty story is the ridiculously depressing notion of “The Way Things Are.”

You may not realize The Way Things Are is a story. That’s part of what makes it so devious (and powerful). Most people just accept that it really is… well… the way things are. As a result, they play along with it without realizing they have any other choice. They take it as a given rather than one way of seeing things.

And since the majority of people are going along with it, it really does become the way things are.

 

So, How Are Things?

Pretty damn crappy, if you believe the story.

If you subscribe to the general belief in The Way Things Are, life is a pretty grim set of circumstances you can’t control and probably don’t like. Here are some elements of “The Way Things Are” mentality:

  • You have no choice but to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for pretty much most of your life.
  • You have to do this because you have to have a car, a house, 10 credit cards and a steady stream of stuff and distractions at all times to keep you happy.
  • You need to be kept happy because you probably hate the job that takes up the majority of your waking hours.
  • (Lather, rinse, repeat the above 3 phrases as needed. It’s a nice vicious circle.)
  • You deserve lots of things you can’t afford because you put up with the unfairness of the above circle. Future You can deal with paying for these things.
  • Debt is something you only need to think about when the bills come each month. It doesn’t matter if you’re paying off that flat-screen TV for the next 30 years, because they’re probably going to be 30 miserable years anyway, and the least you deserve is to be able to watch Dancing with the Stars in high-quality HD.
  • What you do doesn’t matter.
  • Dreams are for the naïve and the misguided. Resignation is the mark of a real, functioning adult.
  • If you don’t already kind of dislike your spouse, you probably will after enough time together. Kids will only make this worse.
  • You should still have kids anyway.
  • No one is where they want to be. That’s just part of growing up.
  • No one likes The Way Things Are, but they can’t be changed. Suck it up, have a drink, go out and buy something. It’s almost the weekend.

I could go on, but it’s too depressing. And I think you probably recognize the story by now.

 

If We All Hate This Story So Much, Why Do We Keep Telling It to Ourselves?

The thing is, no one is really happy living according to The Way Things Are. Any story you have to constantly resign yourself to is not a good one.

So why do so many of us resign ourselves to it?

Because we don’t realize we have any other choice. If we did, we think, more people would be doing something different, wouldn’t they? The fact that everyone around us seems to be keeping their heads down and trudging along makes us think that must be our only option. So we all put our heads down and keep trudging, and this grim picture of the world continues to be the way things actually are because no one realizes it can be any different.

It’s not surprising most of us don’t think to question it. Everything around us reinforces the story.

TV shows give us characters who live neatly in The Way Things Are: dysfunctional families, disgruntled cube farm workers, harried moms and overworked suits and couples who communicate in nasty one-liners. We find these shows funny or moving because they portray things we recognize. They make us feel better about our own shitty circumstances by delivering the reassurance that “we’re all in this together.” You don’t see many shows about minimalist, location-independent lifestyle designers living life on their own terms. (And if you did, people would probably argue that they’re completely unrealistic.)

Commercials sell us products to help us escape from The Way Things Are. We deserve that big SUV with dual heat zones and seat-back DVD players because nothing else in our lives is going right, and the least we can do is give little Johnny the comfort of knowing we’re keeping up with the Joneses. (The money we put towards that SUV could fund part of little Johnny’s college education, but what matters is pleasing Johnny, and ourselves, N-O-W.) We need energy drinks because we’re exhausted after 8 hours at a desk and only have an evening of drudgery to follow, and it’s easier to guzzle a little bottle of something than find a lifestyle that actually energizes us.

We’re inundated with ways to work around The Way Things Are, to distract ourselves from The Way Things Are, to make The Way Things Are a little easier to live with. But The Way Things Are, in itself, is considered a given. And if everyone around you is operating under the notion the earth is flat, you have no reason to stop and wonder if it’s not. You just go on living the best little flat life you think you can.

 

What You Don’t Know

What you don’t know could turn everything upside down.

Did you know it’s possible to sell all your stuff, pay down your debt and be free to live literally anywhere you want, at anytime?

Did you know you can visit every single country in the world in 5 years?

Did you know playing it unsafe is a viable option?

It’s time to free yourself from The Way Things Are and instead create The Way Things Ought To Be. (Tweet!) Poke around the blogosphere long enough and you’ll find that more and more people are doing it — real-life, ordinary people who are, in their own ways, rejecting the mass delusion and creating the lives they’ve always wanted. Start reading just a few of their stories. It’s like someone flipping the Technicolor switch after you’ve been watching black and white all your life.

I’m not gonna lie to you. It takes hard work and some serious faith to pursue a life on your own terms. Another reason The Way Things Are has such a stronghold on us is because, shitty and completely miserable as it is, it’s oh so easy to fall in step with it. But you’re always sacrificing something, whichever story you choose to live by. The choose-your-own adventure stories take discipline, hard work and a willingness to stand out and be different. The Way Things Are story takes your soul, your dreams and your day-to-day and long-term happiness.

Guess which sacrifices I believe are the better deal?

It’s your choice. It’s your story. Which road are you going to take?

Image: Eamon Brett / Flickr

You Do You Like a Boss (or a T-Rex)

The Tyrannosaurus Rex was the pimp of the dinosaur world.

He took names, he called the shots, he ruled the show. Which dinosaur got to be the logo for Jurassic Park? Which dinosaur do most kids want to see first at the science museum? Which dinosaur’s name (rex) actually means “king” in Latin?

That’s right: the mother-effing-T-Rex.

Because he is the incarnation of awesome killer monster dinosaur power.

But you know what? If a T-Rex existed today, he’d be lying on a couch in a psychiatrist’s office talking about his feelings of inadequacy despite of all the fame and glory he gets. Why?

Because T-Rexes Have Tiny Little Arms

For all their razor-toothed, huge-headed terrifyingness, the T-Rex has one genealogical (and rather hilarious) flaw: He has stumpy, useless little flaily arms that The Powers That Be had to have included solely for the purposes of amusing irony.

This means that, in addition to being the target of mean playground ridicule, these kings of the dinosaur world have all sorts of things they CAN’T do.

They can’t do pushups:

They can’t give each other high fives:

T-Rex high fives tshirt

 They can’t adorably express how much they love their significant other:

It’s enough to give any dino a complex.

But you don’t read about these things in the history books. Because—aside from the fact that pushups, high fives and relationships did not exist in the dinosaur era—T-Rexes did the one thing they were designed for very well: they killed things, and they killed them dead. They were predators, and they preyed like nobody’s business.

Brontosauruses, on the other hand, were physically stunning dinos—massively large, tall as fuck, and with all four legs perfectly proportioned. They were walking, symmetrical mountains. And they got killed. They got killed dead—by T-Rexes. Because the gimpy little arms didn’t matter, anymore than the Brontos’ impressive heft did.  Brontosauruses were made to eat leafy things.  T-Rexes were made to eat things that eat leafy things.

What’s the Lesson Here, Cordelia?

The lesson is this:

a) I want any and all of the t-shirts above, and will gladly accept them as early Christmas presents; and

b) We are all designed with certain talents, and certain shortcomings.

You can’t compare your skills against someone else’s, because they’re different. All that matters is that you do what you were designed to do—and you do the everloving shit out of it. (Tweet!)

You may hate your social awkwardness, but you can write one mean piece of copy that magically makes total strangers leap to do your bidding. That’s amazing. A million aspiring writers would kill for that talent.

You may not be the prettiest belle at the ball, but you’ve got the snarkiest, sharpest sense of humor of anyone you know—which is exactly what your future prince charming is looking for in his princess.

You may not know how to run a marathon, or juggle, or have any idea what the latest trending meme is on Twitter. But you do what you do like a boss.

And that is all that matters.

 

Image: Flickr

The Inspirational Power of Prosaic Badassity

(This is a kickass guest post by Shanna Mann.)

 

I was really excited by the message of the now-defunct “Impossible League” (brainchild of Joel Runyon). Kicking the ass of the so-called impossible? Right on! Finally, a group of people who will really celebrate the hard stuff and what it means to overcome. That was until I realized that they had an unbelievably narrow view of what it meant to tackle the impossible.

To me, impossible isn’t just when you intentionally push your limits. However difficult that situation is, it’s fully in your control.

To me, the real impossible stuff comes when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, or when you can’t succeed in the typical manner, whether that’s because of a disability, a disease, being neurodiverse, or just having a really complicated personal situation — that’s what I see as “impossible.”

This collective embracing of feats of physical fitness and stoic challenges represents an actual cultural bias in favor of the fit and healthy. As understandable as that bias is, it shouldn’t make people who don’t reach that standard feel like failures. If anything, it should be the opposite.

That’s why I’m such a fan of making your own job. You can mitigate your issues far better that way.

You see, the way the world is now, it expects certain things from people. A commute. Set hours (or perhaps shift work, which is worse). It requires ridiculous “workdays” that no human being could possibly be productive across the whole span of. It prevents and really kind of pooh-poohs the idea that you should be able to have good hot food, naps or breaks when you need them (not only when they are legally required).

It insists that you should have to save anything and everything personal until after hours, even things that would be more efficient to prod along with throughout the day, like laundry or exercise or walking the dog.

Basically, the modern job requires an automaton, and some of us can’t even fake it. Rather than do all that and fail, we choose to put ourselves into circumstances where it is possible to succeed. Whether it’s a chronic illness, lack of childcare, or some other reason, there’s no reason to play with a stacked deck if you can invent a new game that plays to your strengths.

 

Not “Hacking It” Is a GOOD Thing

I’ve always said that coping mechanisms hurt as often as they help, and this is why: Not being able to hold down a “real” job helps us.

It makes us find another way to keep a roof over our heads, even if we’re suffering from debilitating pain 6 days a week, even when our elderly mother needs full-time care.

Oh, it sucks shitballs, because you have to make things up as you go, but at least it forces you to take your life by the reins. The people who can squeeze themselves into the role their workplace and the economy demands of them are afraid to move for fear of losing the “security” they have. Those who have nothing to lose can afford to be bold.

 

Test Whether the Default Settings Work for You

There are loads of articles about how beneficial it is to be your own boss or to work from home. People rhapsodize about how cool it is to get paid while you’re in your pajamas. That’s fine and all, but that’s really the lowest common denominator when it comes to how being freed from the shackles of societal default settings.

Not many people talk about how you can really take unconventional actions to solve your problems. You can move to Florida to mitigate your SAD, to Ireland to reduce your allergies. You can cope with a rare sleep disorder because when you run your own business, it doesn’t matter if you gain two hours every day. You can earn a living without having to afford daycare. You can take your mother to all her doctor’s appointments — hell, you can go to your own.

I’m on the other side of that issue. One by one, I’ve adjusted the defaults until I’ve settled into a lifestyle that’s so supportive, all my various health problems are nearly asymptomatic.

Why? Because I can wake naturally without an alarm, nap whenever I feel the warning signs, take the day off if I feel ill, eat every 4 hours without fail, and exercise daily to keep my body from seizing up.

When I worked a traditional job, I would wake with a start multiple times in the middle of the night, worried I had slept through my alarm. I would rise in the middle of a sleep cycle and feel nauseated because of it. I would force myself to eat something anyway because I could never be sure when I would get a chance to eat again. I would drive 45 minutes to work, where I would stay pepped up on coffee, B vitamins and Red Bull, and I would take Advil, Robaxacet, and a glass of rum every night so I could unwind and get to sleep without my body aching too much. I coped, but barely. I was still in the stage of trying to prove I could hack it.

What woke me up was someone asking me where I saw myself in 10 years. I said, “Not working this hard.” But when I looked into the future, I couldn’t see any way how what I was doing would lead to a better life.

 

Just Being Brave and Strong Is Not Enough

There tends to be this concept that if things are tough, we should stick it out. We should persevere. But it’s not as simple as that. When we struggle, we should struggle for a purpose. I damn near killed myself trying to prove I was tough, and let me tell you, I now have pretty strict standards about what is worth struggling for.

I am sufficiently convinced that I am not a malingerer. I guess I’ve paid my badass dues. My husband has rheumatoid arthritis and never missed a day of work, even on his surgery days. He’s convinced of his own toughness.

When people talk about their badassity, about the impossible things they’ve done, they never talk about the fact that they get through life on 15 spoons a day. They never talk about how they manage their business by working only when their kids are sleeping (except for years after the fact when they’re being interviewed by Forbes.)

They don’t talk about the second job they work, or how they keep it together in front of clients when their spouse is undergoing cancer treatments. WTF? This is the stuff of heroism. Not cold showers and running triathlons. (Tweet!Those are acceptable training, but the people in my examples are already in the pros.

Fitness and training goals are easy. Not in the sense that you can just snap your fingers and they’re accomplished, but in the sense that there’s a concrete measurability to them; there are simple templates to follow, and there’s a warm camaraderie with all the rest of the crazy people out risking an ankle with you. I have loads more respect for the way that Joel Runyon built a movement around the Impossible League than I am that he ran a marathon and takes cold showers every day.

I don’t have any grand lesson to share with you. If you’re in this situation, you’re already doing everything you can. You might not be doing everything right (because who can tell what that is?), but you’re the man on the ground, and no one can gainsay that. This sparse little poem sums up my feelings on the matter precisely:

I used to admire

Men who sailed the unknown seas or climbed dangerous mountains,

Who flew planes in the Yukon or parachuted for fun,

Men who built their own house and planted with their own hands,

Giants who built shopping centers and skyscrapers 100 stories high.

I used to admire

Priests who missionaried in China and scientists who discovered cures,

Industrialists who built empires, celebrities who made a mark.

Now I’m glad I’ve lived long enough to do some of the things

I used to admire.

Lately I only admire people

Who do what they have to do.

~James Kavanaugh (1928-2009)

 

Professional Badass: 24/7

If you’re already in the pros, own that shit. Don’t treat it like you’re secretly failing because you can’t “live up” to the default. You’re not failing; you’re winning against the odds. You’re taking your own destiny in your hands, and you are fucking crushing it.

If you’ve never been able to talk about your triumphs for fear they’ll sound like whining, tell us in the comments, and we’ll cheer you for the impossibility-crusher you are.

 

Shanna MannShanna Mann is a business coach for freelancers and solopreneurs. She’s not the “$100K in 90 Days or Less” type of business coach, or the “How Can I Get Paid for My Passion?” type — she’s the “How can I pursue excellence, both personally and through my business, and how can I secure my gains so that my family doesn’t suffer the stress and uncertainty of the risks I chose?” type of business coach. If that sounds like your cri de coeur, visit shannamann.com and sign up for the free business management guide Be The Boss.

 

 Image: Atos / Flickr

Screw the Game of Life. Here’s the Real Way to Play It

I never played The Game of Life as a kid. Count it among the many random ways my childhood was deprived of things most normal American children experience (including getting something from the ice cream truck, seeing The Goonies and going to a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese).

Maybe if I’d played it back then, when things like jobs and life insurance policies seemed cool because they were “grownup,” I would have enjoyed it more. But when my husband introduced me to the game recently (I’m trying to make up for lost experiences), I have to say I was disappointed —  and also oddly disturbed.

I was expecting the game to be more of a choose-your-own adventure, something that lets kids role-play being an adult by making various choices and then seeing what the consequences would be. And there is some of that.  (Don’t want to buy that auto insurance? Guess who just got into an accident!)

But for the most part, I felt like I was being moved along on a conveyor belt, collecting things as I was told to based on random numbers generated by a little plastic spinner arm.

It didn’t feel like fun; it felt like obeying orders.

 

I Have to Do What, Now?

What if I didn’t want three little peg-headed children? What if I wanted two  (Or none at all, for that matter?) Or what if I wanted to wait until I had a little more money to properly support them?

And did I really have to buy a helicopter on my modest teacher’s salary just because that’s the space I landed on? What if I didn’t want a helicopter? I already owned enough things I couldn’t afford, including a house, a business, two horses, and apparently all of my dead aunt’s 50 cats.

Being told what to do and when to do it, and then doing it, isn’t my idea of a super-fun time. When I reached the “Day of Reckoning,” I had the little family of five that had been assigned to me, a collection of ridiculously pricey items, and a life insurance policy to cash in on. But I didn’t feel any sense of triumph or accomplishment.

All I’d done was check off the boxes I was supposed to, exactly the same as my opponent (although I have to admit he’d done it much more successfully than I had). And now that I’d reached the end, I had nothing to show for it but a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to begin with and the sense of having been pushed through a series of events I’d had no say in.

Woo. Hoo.

Quite frankly, I was hoping for a little more out of Life.

 

So This Is What It’s Like to Be a Grownup?

I think the reason I disliked the game so much (I found myself actively resenting it by the end, and not because I’d lost) was that it’s actually an all-too-accurate depiction of what it’s like to be an adult. And I don’t agree with The Way Things Are in real life, either.

I can accept that sometimes random events (fire, lottery windfall, etc.) happen to you when you least expect them. I can also accept the notion of a giant spinner arm of fate/God/what-have-you that grants certain people “luck” and other people misfortune on a seemingly random basis. I may be an idealist, but I understand that sometimes the good guy doesn’t always win in the end. (I don’t necessarily like it, but I can begrudgingly accept it.)

The thing that bothered me about The Game of Life wasn’t these random ups and downs, but how compulsory it felt. Just like my actual grownup life, I didn’t feel like I had much input into how I went about living. I was simply following a preset line, doing what I was supposed to do whenever I was expected to do it.

I may have more say in the real world over whether or not I buy a helicopter, but there are still plenty of spaces along the road of life where you’re expected to do or acquire certain things just because that’s the way most people normally go about it. There’s a generally accepted blueprint for living, and most of us follow it without thinking twice.

You can tell because other people are guaranteed to notice when you’re not following this blueprint. You reach a certain age, and people start asking you “when you’re going to” do various things: When are you going to get married? Start having kids? Buy a house? The implication is that you either should have done these things by now, or you’re about due to, because the typical life goes along a continuum just like the board game, with certain actions you take at certain stages.

Everyone’s board looks a little bit different, but the basic layout is the same: go to college, get a job, get married, have 2.5 kids and a 2.5 car garage house, work 9 to 5 five days a week, keep doing that till you’re 65, and then (if you’re lucky), you reach the end space, where you get to finally relax and just live life (if you have the money and health left to do so). You move along the winding, colorful spaces with everyone else, collecting things at the points you’re supposed to, and that is considered a “life.”

 

Break Free of the Board

Personally, I have a problem with that. A big problem.

I don’t have a grand master plan for the future, but I can tell you I’m not too enthused about the idea of living my life as a series of checkpoints and to-dos. Especially when they’re someone else’s. (Tweet, tweet!)

I have a to-do list of my own, thank you, and only so much time in which to accomplish it.

I don’t care what I’m “supposed to” have done or “supposed to” have gotten by my 28th year of living. I don’t care where everyone else’s little plastic cars are on the board. This is my life, and there’s an awful lot I’d like to do with it. And none of it will get done if I waste my time trying to make my life conform to the usual pattern.

Which is why I’m taking my little plastic car off road to see what kind of adventures I can come up with beyond the board. I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds like a lot more fun.

What’s your take on the game of life? Are you ready to off-road it, too?

Image: Flickr