Most people never leave their backyard, or The speed of adulthood


We were standing on the top of the Arc de Triomphe. (Side note: no, this was not something I thought you could do, but it was great that we could.)

It was a kind of “triomphe” for my Mom, for whom this was a first-in-her-lifetime (but not a once-in-a-lifetime) experience. She was lost in a reverie at the sights. A beautiful sunny day, warm but not hot, standing above the streets of Paris, gazing at the Eiffel Tower.

She stared for a long time, and then sighed, looked at me and said, “and most people never leave their backyard.

Table of Contents

So much

Mom’s realization is dead-on, and important. What she was saying, if I may be permitted to paraphrase and perhaps extrapolate, is that there is so much to see, so much beauty, so much around, that most people won’t see.

They won’t see it because they remain with the familiar, what is usual, and never break out of their cycles.

Which, I might add, is easy to do. No one is going to force you out of your routine. And by the time you’ve done all the basics that need to be done: work, sleep, laundry, eating, it’s quite easy to find that you’re too tired.

So fast

And that, it seems, is how adulthood can fly by. In childhood, you spend a lot of time waiting: waiting for school to start, waiting for school to end, waiting to be able to meet your friends, etc. But in adulthood, there is no time for waiting. What you find is lots of going, going to work, going to the store, going home, going out, etc.

Being in control of your own destiny is thus a double-edged sword. When you had no control, you could wonder about what things would be like in the future. But when you had control, it’s all too easy for that future to stay tantalizingly out of reach.

Which is why, as my Mom so succinctly pointed out, most people never leave their backyard.

So there

But not you. Because you know that you’ve been given (among much else) two very specific gifts:

  • The gift of time
  • The gift of not too much time

Time, in order to make things happen. Not too much time, so that you have a fire under you, and won’t wait until “someday”.

You are probably an adult with responsibilities, ones that can feel insurmountable. It can feel like you’ll never be able to push that rock over the hill.

Here’s the thing, though: you’re absolutely right. You won’t ever push that rock over the hill. You’ll always be able to fill your hours with work that needs to get done. Always.

Which is why, if you want to accomplish more than just getting by, you’ll need to stop what you’re doing (at least for a bit) and carve out your own time. No one else will do this for you. Believe me, when you really want it, you’ll find the time to do this, and nothing will collapse.

If you don’t, then, as Mom pointed out, you’ll never leave your backyard. And don’t you want more than that?


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