reflection · May 25, 2007 0

climbing ladders

My life is one big airport at the moment flying to and from Scotland. And when you have a 2 and half hour delay to your flight, you get plenty of time to think. I’ve been mulling over some words I stumbled across in the Joseph Campbell companion guide where he’s writing about old age and following your bliss. And the quote on old age that caught my eye was this: you know you’re getting old “when you’ve gotten to the top of the ladder and find it’s up against the wrong wall.”

And the thought of descending the whole ladder to climb another one is dreadful. As JC pointed out, that’s where many people find themselves today. His advice is to forget the ladder and just wander, bump around.

Which of course reminds me of something Tolkien wrote: “Not all those who wander are lost.”

And now I am thinking, do I want to climb another ladder? The truth is I’ve never climbed to the top of any ladder. Like Frank Sinatra, I’ve been:

a puppet

a pauper

a pirate

a poet

a pawn and a king

I’ve also been a dishwasher (funniest job I ever had), a cadet, a cement mixer, a counselor, a fitness instructor, a soldier, a financial consultant, a manufacturing engineer, a technology trainer, a training manager, a coach, and a training consultant.

And non of these have I climbed to the top. I simply did them until they no longer interested me and then I moved on. But now as I approach 39, I’m wondering should I be settled? Should I be at the top of some ladder with the implication that at the top of the ladder I’d have lots of money and could retire and not have to work again?

Somehow, the prospect of retiring, the idea of retiring makes me shudder. The thought of retiring fills my head up with images of being put on a shelf, ‘retired’ to make way for a newer faster model.

No, I like the idea that it is better to burn out than to fade away.


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