Tuesday, October 26, 2004

when we settle

I have a friend who always wanted to be a rock star. Pretty common, right? But this friend was good. I mean really good. By the time he was in high school, he was playing regularly around town, the darling of several older music "veterans," and had girls fawning over him the way most boys that age only dream about.

And you probably think you know how this story ends - that he tried after high school, but couldn't quite get it together, so now he plays coffee houses with the money he makes from a low-end job, and pines for the days when he "was somebody."

But that's not quite it. Because this friend went to college, married a beautiful and talented girl by the time he was a junior, and now teaches high school science at a reputable boarding school in the South. And he never touched his music again.

It's like one day he just moved on. And he swears to me that he's happy. He has a wonderful life with his wife and new baby daughter. He has a responsible job, is respected in his community, and his wife stays home to raise their family. Sounds like the perfect life.

But I just don't get it. How could someone that loved music so much, for whom music was their passion and life, just move on like that? How is it possible, when I saw him feeding off the inspiration of the music, and the adoration of the crowds that mouthed his lyrics like he was some kind of Jim Morrison? Can someone's priorities change that much that the old things that mattered so much simply don't matter at all anymore? Is he really happy....really, way down deep, or has he somehow buried that old passion so far down that he doesn't even remember it anymore, and he's mistaking his contented, secure life for happiness? Has he really somehow "settled" for the easy road?

When someone says they're happy with their life, can we really believe them?

I mean, at one level, who am I to say otherwise? He certainly seems happy, and he has a lot to live for and enjoy in life. But part of me is so uncomfortable with the whole idea that someone can just change like that.

I guess I'm just skeptical of people who feel like they "change" dramatically at random stages of life. One example that always comes up - at 17, a lot of us thought 35 was old. But now that we're 25, we all say, "nah. 35 isn't old. I just didn't see that when I was 17." Well, I'm of the opinion that I did see that at 17, and really, 35 is old (or at least middle aged) and I should just be okay with that and age gracefully. (For those that are interested; in my rubric 0-20 is young, 30-50 is middle aged, 50-? is elderly. And I plan on keeping this rubric till I die.) Another one that comes up quite a bit is "oh, I thought I was in love before, but I never really loved anyone until _______" But in this case, the old standby "I always thought ______ made me happier than anything in the world. But I'm even better now, doing _______, than I could have imagined" is the one that makes me concerned.

Because I never want anyone to settle. I never want anyone to give up on their dreams and aspirations for the sake of security (or anything else!), and cover it up by insisting how happy they are with the way life turned out. It's especially difficult when the person really seems happy, or has really convinced himself that he's just as happy (or maybe happier) with his family, working a respectable 9-5, than he ever might have been inspiring people with music.

Is it actually settling if the person really does feel happy?

So why do we settle? And should I even care? Because it's true that things happen in people's lives, things that are unexpected, and I'm sure everyone's priorities change at one time or another. Everyone I know with kids says that it's impossible to understand true love until you've had children. So I guess this must be true, even though the love for a spouse is so intense I can't imagine anything approaching that. God certainly wants us to find contentment in Him and not in the "stuff" of life. But what about the idea of a "calling?" Can you miss your calling and still be truly happy?

All these questions running around in my head, and I can't help but feel sorry for a guy that insists that he is happier than he has ever been in his life. Then I remember how inspired I was just watching him perform. And I know how much he lived for the opportunity to move people with his music, and I just don't understand how he could give it all up and never look back. I guess I just don't understand life sometimes...what a complicated mess.
Grace & Peace-