“Everyone has two lives, the second one starts when you realize you only have one“.
© Tom Hiddleston
I remember well the day when our second life started. March 16, 2011. We were wandering along the banks of the river Seine holding cups of hot coffee. We could smell the mix of flavours from cafes and restaurants carried along by the wind. Our daughter was feeding ducks with crumbs from a fresh baguette. My heart skipped a beat at the thought that we were about to jump about on a trampoline, at the thought of freedom, of a new beginning, of the ambitious goals which we set ourselves and were responsible for. I wish every person could finally reach such a day. A day when we start doing exactly what we’ve been dreaming of but have never given it a go up until now. A day when we start living our second life which we’ve been putting off for decades.
This ’second life’ doesn’t mean living in Paris or lying in a hammock under the palm trees, or having a house by the sea. I’m not talking about finally receiving the satisfaction you’ve been unable to achieve for years. I’m talking about that delayed meaning to life. That is exactly why the beginning of this second life can be so dangerous and damaging — getting hold of the simple pleasures which you crave isn’t really so hard; but you can never find any meaning in all those wasted years once they’re gone.
”Meaning“: By this I mean the ability to answer those questions like “who am I”? ”what am I doing here?“ ”where is my place in this world?“. These quite simple questions require simple answers. I’d even say very simple ones. Because they’re totally true. As soon as you find them, you immediately have a strong sense that you are in your right place. And only then do you stop simply existing, and start living your life.
As for pleasure, then of course, go for it! Our lifestyle and the environment that we want to live in are of course very important. However, they will never give meaning to your life, until you realise why you want exactly what you want. There are quite a lot of people out there who have moved somewhere which they thought would be paradise, only to find that it did not change their lives for the better — they just ’moved the furniture’, so to speak.
Change is unavoidable, but it isn’t necessarily affected by geography. The life you’ve been putting off all these years might begin while you’re sitting in your familiar surroundings, in a comfy armchair at home, whilst still reading this article.
Your delayed life is waiting for you
Stage 1: A vague feeling that there’s an alternative. You feel like you’ve wandered into a maze without any purpose, and now you’re absolutely lost. Your here by mistake. You should be somewhere else, talking to somebody else. At this stage, you still cannot see a clear picture of your future, but you nevertheless have the feeling of not being in the right place. You are suffering from all the questions whirling around in your head.
Stage 2: The unrealised dream. While in the first stage you simply felt that something was wrong, during stage two you are building up a detailed picture of the reality. You imagine having your own restaurant or a book written by yourself. You used to call these things “impossible dreams”, remember? Time starts passing you by at breakneck speed, and you feel as though any possibility of ever realising your plans is being erased forever.
Stage 3: Real suffering. Here comes the most serious part. While at stages one and two we are talking about some vague, virtual images, the thought of which might even brighten up your day-to-day life on occasion (we all like dreaming about this and that), at stage three you feel unhappy — like really unhappy.
The situation becomes somewhat poisonous. This poison is the uncertainty you feel in any and all decisions you are trying to make.
Quit or not to quit; start or not to start; say or not to say; do or not to do; go or not to go — and so on. You are wasting your energy for nothing. The longer you live like this, the less desire you have to realize your plans and dreams.
Why do we all ’put life off’?
The reason is that we are all waiting for two conditions to appear:
-The ’ideal moment’ to do something, and
-Complete clarity of thought
I’ll save you some time here: both the first and second condition here are not possible to achieve in any reasonable time frame.
Regarding the ’ideal moment’: Being in our thirties, we already have families, houses, responsibilities. We’re used to a certain way of living. It’s impossible to change everything at once without losing something.
Regarding complete clarity of thought: Good news: you have a great number of hidden opportunities. Bad news: you will never ever notice them if you follow the route without turning your head. You are going to miss them all.
Imagine you are going somewhere in a foggy weather. The destination is clear, but the road itself is hard to discern. You make step number one, number two, then three and four… you are constantly looking around and listening carefully to every single sound. Every new bit of information you get should be evaluated. Easy? Not at all. Most of us cannot deal with this way of going forward. The reality is tricky. It is impossible to predict every step you take, however hard you try. Do not try to see every bump in the road beforehand. You will inevitably fall down one day, and then you’ll just have to get up and keep going anyway. So be optimistic, open-minded and attentive.
But I am responsible for others…
Responsibility for others is not a cast-iron excuse or “defence“ against making any changes. In fact, it’s an under-used resource. Responsibility only helps you to realize your plans if there is nothing else left to help you. It never lets you give up when you have run out of energy and optimism, self-confidence, or even ambition.
Responsibility brings the dead back to life and cures you of feelings of depression, because you just cannot quit. Prepare better. Move faster. You know exactly who you are doing this for. Responsibility for others is a powerful and clear motivation which allows you to go faster and further. You live for your nearest and dearest and you have no right to betray them.
Just make ”your“ people a part of your project of change. Think what they might receive when you reach your aim. Even if you only want to have more free time and to work less, as a result your children will get to see more of you. And this will really mean quite a lot to them.
You need guarantees? You will never get them. Life is full of uncertainty; things might collapse tomorrow and leave you with only broken dreams and forgotten aims.
What can I do?
Your strategy for action should depend on just what stage of comprehending your ’delayed’ life you currently find yourself in:
If you’re at stage 1: Think, search, try to understand what your alternative path through life might look like, and where it lies. Find the answer to your “why”!
If you’re at stage 2: Make sure you really know what your dream is, and decide how to make it come true. Here the answer to the ”why” is a must. You have to understand that this is what you really want. Otherwise you are just wasting your time.
If you’re at stage 3: The situation is unbearable. It’s high time you act, not think! Do not lose your motivation, and make the first step. Let it be tiny and uncertain. Start your journey out of the maze.
The most important thing here is that you are not a martyr anymore. You are a real person who is moving to the one — the only — right destination.