Sunday, November 16, 2014

Make It Count

Sundays are usually filled with naps, movies, homework, and resting for me. Most of all, Sundays are my favorite days to pause and reflect on what's happening in my life and sort through my thoughts. I'm always thinking about decisions I've made, people I've interacted with, and opportunities I've taken or passed up on. I probably over-think, but reflecting on my life really helps me to prioritize what needs to be done and what can be changed to make bad things better.

This week, my mind is mostly filled with thoughts about my senior capstone research regarding ageism and intimacy later in life. I really stressed about senior seminar all summer, but now that I'm taking the first part of the class, it's silly to me that it was ever a worry. Yeah, it's not the easiest thing in the world, but it's so rewarding. Lauren and I have been staying on track with our assignments and research so my anxiety about it is nearly non-existent.

I have been volunteering at an assisted living home in Burlington since the end of October (not very long), and during my weekly visits I have met some amazing people. It's a great experience to have under my belt for this project, but at the same time it's been really good for my heart. I just recently interviewed a resident named Leo, and hearing about all of the accomplishments this 80-year-old man has made was astounding. The best part was seeing how he's retained his passion for life throughout the hardships, successes, loves, and losses that he has experienced. He joked with me about having had "many careers and many women" throughout his life, but now all he has time for is his artwork.

Leo was an orphan who bounced from foster home to foster home as a kid. His peers told him that he wouldn't amount to anything, but he proved them wrong. He knew that he was capable of greatness, and he was. He started a furniture business, worked as a barber, dabbled in mechanics, opened a variety store, and spent years working as a mason. This man never gave up on pursuing his passions and even came out of retirement in Florida because he was so bored of sitting around. After a debilitating heart attack knocked him off of his feet a few years ago, he was in a wheelchair with little hope of walking again. Somehow, he powered through and recovered so that all he needed to walk was a cane. Now he paints beautiful pictures that are hanging on his bedroom wall in a variety of frames- my favorite is of two penguins. Leo meets with an art student often and learns techniques for blending his paints and what not. Last year, he had a gallery showing and sold over 60 paintings. He spent the money that he earned on more paint supplies and frames for his wall.

At one point I stopped Leo and said how impressed I was with all of the things that he's done, and he replied "I haven't even started."

When I'm 80-years-old, I want to tell someone my story and be able to say the same thing. My friend is living his life like it is a grand adventure, and isn't that what it is? We should be changing jobs and moving around while we can. We should rent a 33 ft. RV and take a road trip across the country. So what if a relationship doesn't work out? So what if you fail an exam? So what if you get laid-off? Take a lesson from Leo and stop being afraid of change. Embrace it and seek it out because that might just be the key to a happy life.

I try so hard to hold onto the things that make me happy, and sometimes my fear of change cripples me and prevents any new opportunities from arising. The happiest times in my life have been when I have gone out of my element and tried something new, like living in London. I want to keep embracing new experiences and new people so that I never miss out on all that life has to offer. Things may get rough sometimes, and I might get scared, but what I would regret most is letting fear get the best of me.

It's time to start consistently putting myself out there. It's time to live life like Leo. Every moment counts so take that chance, tell someone how you feel, apply for that dream job, or jump on a plane and see the world. Do what makes you happy and never hold back.

Until next time,

xx Sheila

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