I anxiously bolted out of my classroom, clicked “Christopher” on my phone and unleashed.
My students had come to a consensus that “if someone is 30-years old and still following a dream, they should give up and do something more practical and sustainable.”
I asked Christopher, “What if I’m being impractical believing that you can still follow your dreams past 30, even if you haven’t attained them yet? Am I the crazy one?”
Calmly he said, “Babe, they’re 18. It’s like that saying: When you get your Bachelor’s degree you think you know everything. When you get your Master’s degree you learn you know nothing. When you get your PhD you realize no one knows shit! They think they know everything! They’re 18!”
This took me back to a student who stood in my classroom at the end of the year and said, “I’ve seen it all. There is nothing left to see.” I asked, “Have you ever noticed the bookshelf in the back corner?” She scanned her surroundings and surrendered: “No, I’ve never seen it.” I said, “You hadn’t seen it because you didn’t look.” She was so convinced she knew everything that she missed everything else she didn’t know; and she missed some good stuff. What if these students were doing the same?
I wanted to test Chris’s theory, so I experimented on the following Monday. “How many of you think you have life figured out, that there’s nothing left to learn?” At least 20 hands raised!
Over one weekend, a bunch of 18-year-olds almost overturned my conviction that you’re never too old to follow your dreams.
So I told them about the movie Unbroken, in which a man lives out his life’s dream 60 years after he expected to. He finally saw through his desired destiny at eighty-years old!
Erik Erikson postulates that each of us goes through life stages that bring us to the final stage in which we live out our old age either with “integrity” or “despair.” If one reaches integrity, they feel satisfied with their choices and have fulfilled their life’s purpose. If one fails to reach integrity, they will live out their final days in despair, regretful of their chosen path, resisting death.
As I taught Erikson’s stages, I remembered my father at age 65. He instigated what was almost a fist fight. When I removed my hands from my eyes and quit screaming, “Are you really still doing this, Dad?”, I got to see my father as he actually was. For the first time, I saw the dueling reality of who he looks at in the mirror and who he is on the inside—ageless and still full of fire for life. I finally released him from the bondage of my own projections.
For years, my father worked a job he hated to buy shit he didn’t care to have and do things he didn’t care to do. He consistently came home miserable from a world I was told I needed to fit into because, “that’s how it is.”
Early on I decided that wouldn’t be how I led my life. At age 67, he retired, wrote some books he never knew he could write and is currently a public speaker running a center for veterans. He will still go Sargent Hoch on your ass. At the age of 67, for the first time in his whole damn life, my father is walking in the soulful shoes of who Clyde Hoch came here to be. He has finally come to know integrity while proving there is no “too old” to live a dream.
Medical advancements may soon bring our life expectancy to 100 or older. This calls for a paradigm shift. Rather than reaching 70 and sitting around waiting to die, we can relearn how to fully come alive.
God forbid we spend the next however long saying we’re too young, old, fat or poor to step into our soulful purpose because a few people who believed they had it all figured out told us this was the way it had to be.
For all the fathers out there who took years off their lives living out someone else’s design; for my students who already believe they have to be a certain way because the world says so: Your dream is the fire that fuels your soul; it’s what makes you you!
The truth is, the whole world needs your dream to come alive just to prove that dreams aren’t dreams: dreams are a reality for those who believe!
Who do you have to be today to step onto the path of reaching your death with integrity?
I’ve concluded that I’m not the crazy one.
Author: Stacy Hoch
Editor: Caroline Beaton