“Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”
— Samuel Ullman
Once upon a time, a young teenager fell in love — with computers. It was his enthusiasm and passion that made an arduous journey successful. Riding his bike more than 20 miles each day, first to college, then to the hospital to sit with his grandfather, home to sleep for a few hours, and finally back to school, he accomplished what less determined people would not. He held ideals which helped propel him to a life of training other adults in the work he loved. Somewhere, though, in the high pressured arena of corporate life, he lost his spark. Instead of growing older, as Ullman puts it, by deserting his ideals, the young man reached for what created another spark and began anew because no one wants to wrinkle the soul.
I have a few wrinkles, and I notice them especially on the days I forget to use hand lotion and realize that my mother’s hands look much younger than my own. Wrinkles on my skin, however, are not as concerning to me, nor should they be to you, as the risk of wrinkles on my soul. The young man in my story is not unlike many of us — dreaming of one thing as our career only to find that what energizes us isn’t the same thing as time progresses. Some people lose their enthusiasm and find a way to get re-energized where they are, while others lose their spark and decide to find a new place to shine. My friend, KUN, did the latter.
When we lose our enthusiasm for our work or our life, we have a choice to make. We can find ways to remind ourselves of why we were so excited when a project or relationship began, or we can decide to make more drastic changes. Losing the spark in a relationship or your life affects many people besides the one wanting change. Divorce and suicide are significant consequences for the extinguishing of a flame that might have just needed a little effort to put things back on course.
Teaching was my my knack, Linux was my love, but photography, that was something deeper… That was something I could see was making me whole again. ~ KUN
For KUN, the corporate world drained his soul of any fire that might have still been burning. Rather than sink in depression, he turned to a hobby he had come to love — photography. Changing course at any age when the work is no longer exciting or energizing won’t necessarily be easy. KUN left his career in computers, along with the luxuries he enjoyed. He has never been happier than he is in this impoverished state of beginning again. Some sparks come in new beginnings, while others come from new outlooks.
If you’d like to stay in the career or relationship you are in right now, find something that sparks your enthusiasm. Spend time remembering what it was that pulled you into the career you chose, and if you’re just beginning, keep a journal with thoughts about the excitement you find in your job. If you have people working for you, take the time to listen to them, let them know they matter in their job, and give them opportunities to learn new skills for their job to help them renew their enthusiasm. In relationships, be intentional.
As you age, let the wrinkles be only on your skin and not on your soul. If a relationship matters to you, be intentional in your efforts to keep the enthusiasm alive. If your job doesn’t thrill you the way it once did find a spark or a new career that thrills your soul, and if you’re in India, I know a great photographer.