I was visiting my daughter this weekend who happens to live in a college town. She recently moved, and after lunch we decided to go for a walk and check out the new neighborhood. Remember, this is a college town and full of freshly minted young adults, mostly in their 20’s. As we passed along the streets and shops, I started noticing posters about social action meetings, storefronts set up for charity work, announcements for upcoming activists coming to town, and yard signs complaining about a new national business coming to town. I started thinking to myself, “These 20-somethings are really fixated on issues of right and wrong and are very vocal about their concerns.” Their causes are important to them, and they seem to have a strong desire to fight for the perceived underdog, whether the cause is a poor child, a small business owner in town, or an ethnic minority in Africa.
At this point in our walk, I started to think about how our motivations change as we age. It seems to me that when we are children, it’s all about play. Give us a few rocks and sticks, and suddenly there is a game going on. Every tree is a fort and every creek is a country club pool. As we enter adolescence, the focus of our passion shifts to the fight for justice that was obviously on display during our walk. Our paradigm shifts again the day our first child is born. Suddenly, we become preoccupied by thoughts of how to protect our children now and in the future. Finally, after the little ones leave to pursue their own dreams, older people’s thoughts start to move back toward play and frivolity in the form of travel, sports, and consumption.
A healthy balance between all these paradigms is probably where we need to spend most of our time. Balancing our need to play, our sense of right and wrong, and our sense of duty to those around us is not an easy thing and changes as we age. It is my opinion that having a healthy blend of all these forces forges the healthiest, most resilient people.