Thursday, February 20, 2014

Golden Apples

I just turned down an opportunity to spend a year doing something I love in a place I love with people I love (and receiving an extravagantly generous salary for doing it).

Why on earth would anybody turn down an offer like that?

Because there is something I love doing (also in a place I love and with people I love, though without the extravagantly generous salary) that matters to me even more.

This is a year of transitions for me, huge, life-changing transitions. In six months I have a milestone birthday. In scarcely more than three months I retire from my twenty-year career as a professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado. In less than a WEEK I welcome into the world my first grandchild.

As I launch what I'm calling Act III of my life, I have a clear vision of what I want that life to be, distilled from sixty years of hard-won wisdom. If I'm going to make that vision a reality, I can no longer afford to be distracted by other glorious possibilities, tempting as they are.

The fierce huntress Atalanta refused to marry; pressured by her father to accept a mate, she vowed she would wed only a man who could beat her in a footrace or die in the attempt. Many suitors perished until one sought the assistance of Aphrodite, goddess of love, who gave him three golden apples to scatter along the way. Distracted by their irresistible gleam, Atalanta darted after them, slowed her speed, and lost the race.

Back when I lived in Maryland, half a lifetime ago, a therapist/life coach warned me against my tendency to dart after golden apples rather than keeping my eyes on the prize of what I love and value most. I didn't listen. And I have to say I've loved my scramble after all of those golden apples. I don't regret a minute of it. Plus, the golden apples glisten attractively on my shelf.

But Act III is the time to make sure that your story is heading in the direction you really, truly, most deeply want it to go. Even if this means that a golden apple or two or three rolls away to be collected by someone else. I have enough golden apples now. It's time for me to make sure that Act III is heading where I want it to go.

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