Something New

When some friends invited my husband and I to join them on their trip to Las Vegas, we happily accepted.  My husband had only been there on business trips, spending his time in meetings on the outskirts of the city, and I hadn’t been there at all.  Las Vegas wasn’t a place we had a special interest in visiting, but getting out of town with friends seemed like a great idea, so we decided to give it a try.  And we ended up having a wonderful time.

One advantage of traveling with friends is that they encourage us to try new things.  Not only did we spend a few days in Vegas, but my husband (who is very uncomfortable with heights) actually joined us on the giant, 550-foot tall, ferris wheel on the strip.  The first time we saw it, my husband said there was no way he was getting on that thing.  But our friends assured us that each “pod” is huge and completely enclosed, and said the wheel moved so slowly that you don’t even feel it or realize how high up you are.  To my surprise, my husband agreed to try it.  It could have been peer pressure…even at our age, that’s a thing…or it could have been the glass of wine he drank at dinner.  But for whatever reason, we all boarded the “High Roller,”  and it turned out that they were right.  It wasn’t scary at all, and offered a fabulous view of the city.

Talking about it later, my husband and I agreed we probably wouldn’t have visited Las Vegas at all if our friends hadn’t invited us.  And I know for a fact that if the two of us had made that trip alone, there is no way we would have ridden that ferris wheel.  I’m not as uncomfortable with heights as my husband is, but I tend to avoid them just the same.  At age 64, I’ve reached a point in my life where I believe I already know what I like and what I don’t like, which is okay.  But what is not okay is that sometimes I allow that knowledge to stop me from trying something new.

And that’s where friends and family come in.  They can invite us to try something for the first time, or to venture somewhere we’ve never even considered going.  I like to think of myself as a creature of habit, because that sounds so much nicer than “stuck in a rut.”  Left to my own devices, I rarely wander out of my comfort zone.  But when someone I know and trust suggests something brand new, that opens a door for me to expand my horizons, to experience somewhere brand new, and to realize that I can do more than I ever thought possible.

I guess sometimes peer pressure, from the right people and for the right reasons, can be a very good thing indeed….

What Will People Think?

Ann and GennyWhen I was young and wore a new dress to school, my mother would almost always ask me when I came home, “And what  did the other kids think of your outfit?”  Money was a bit tight in our household, so new clothes were a special treat.  And sometimes my mother had sewn my new dress herself, so her question made sense in many ways.  Even so, I always had the distinct impression that what I thought of my new outfit wasn’t all that counted, and that it was important that other people liked it as well.  And I understood that, because like most children, I wanted the approval of my peers, my family, my teachers, and almost everyone else I came into contact with.   The problem is, there’s a part of me that still does.

There’s a part of me that still wants to make sure other people approve of me and what I’m doing with my life.  Did my latest blog post get enough “likes” on the site itself or on my Facebook page?  Will my atheist friends think I’m weird if I admit that I go to church nearly every Sunday?  Do people with successful careers look down on me because I’m just a volunteer now?    Do the staff at the animal shelter where I volunteer really think I’m helpful, or am I just a giant pain in the butt,  too often pointing out problems that need to be fixed?  And I’m embarrassed to say, there are still times when I wonder what others think of “my outfit.”

I know I’ve spent far too much time and energy trying to please and win the approval of other people. Sometimes its was necessary, such as when I was working in an office and needed my boss to think highly of me and my work skills.  And an essential part of my free-lance writing career was finding out exactly what my editor wanted and making sure that was precisely what I delivered.  Back when I was an English major in college, you can bet I paid attention to whatever biases my professors happened to hold and was careful not to challenge them when I wrote my papers.  Sometimes, the approval of others is a necessary thing.

But one of the advantages of growing older is that it gradually becomes easier to tune out the values and opinions of other people and to listen to our own inner voices instead.  It’s a slow process, and requires almost constant vigilance.  There will always be those moments when I find myself caring too much about what others think of me, and have to remind myself that its what I think of me that matters the most.

I want to get to the point where I care very much about other people, but very little about what they happen to think about me.  I want to have the courage to do and say what I think is right, even when the people around me disagree.  I want to be a able to stand firmly in my own truth and to follow my own moral compass.  At 57, I am still very much a work in progress, and I’m sure there will always be a certain distance between the person I want to be and the person I really am.  But I’m working hard to close the gap.