I turned 24 this week. Woo hoo. I was actually pretty excited for some reason. I can’t identify why I had the excitement that I did, but I was genuinely excited for my birthday this year. Maybe it was because I knew I’d be co-celebrating my great college mascot’s birthday as well. If you’re reading this Amy Strong, I think that’s enough reason to name him Tanner.
Being a highly introspective person, I have spent a lot of time this past year both consciously and subconsciously reflecting on life. As I reflect on my short stint here on Earth, I realize that I have more questions than answers. Many people will write blogs such as 30 Things I’ve Learned at 30 or 26 Pieces of Advice on my 26th Birthday. Because I don’t have answers, I write to you 24 Questions on my 24th Birthday.
- Am I crazy?
I think this question echoes in the chambers of my thoughts more often than almost any other. In a world full of advice columns, listicles, and seven step programs, we expect life to fit neatly into that listicle we just read on 10 Things to do to ensure ______. Unfortunately, life isn’t as tidy as a listicle, and it never will be. This will undoubtedly leave me and others wondering, “Am I crazy?”.
- What am I doing?
I don’t mean like day-to-day, hour-to-hour, or even minute-to-minute action. I mean grand scheme of life stuff. I’ve lived long enough to know that the actions of today shape my tomorrow. It’s the law of reaping and sowing. It can be hard to view everything with the long-term in mind, but it is important. This leads me into my next question…
- What can I do just enjoy for the sake of enjoyment?
Many brilliant thinkers and authors and wise people will preach the virtues of living with the future in mind. But if you are delaying all gratification in your life, you might end up pretty miserable in the present. I had a realization a few weeks ago that I had forgotten to simply have fun by myself. To apply a statement of Jesus to this context, I had neglected childlikeness in exchange for sincerity and a stoic approach to life and have become dissatisfied with certain areas of my life in the process.
This may seem ridiculous to you, but I have combatted that by re-introducing video games into my life. This is my method of getting guilt-free fun in my life. I heard Srinivas Rao on the Unmistakable Creative podcast say that he religiously plays video games for one hour each night. He has written about many of the things that I experience but have a hard time putting into words, so I figured that if he make time for video games as a means of daily enjoyment, I can too. Forza Horizon 4 released yesterday, and I’m loving it.
If you don’t have at least one thing that you can enjoy on a regular basis, I would recommend getting something in your life that you can do that has no long-term outlook. Video games have helped me stabilize my monkey mind, and I think there are tons of other activities that you can undertake that will serve the same purpose.
- Why do I fight myself so much?
No, I’m not physically fighting myself. It comes more through mental resistance. I fight the good things that have come into my life. I fight the bad. I can be my own worst enemy as I have sabotaged more than one good work in my life. It’s a very strange thing, and is something that more self-help books simply aren’t going to help me do away with. I need to give this to Holy Spirit and work with Him to rid myself of these negative patterns of thinking and doing. I know He is willing. I must trust Him.
- Am I going to be okay?
You know, the question you probably ask yourself on a weekly (or daily) basis as well. I have lots of change coming up in the next three months. While that excites me, there’s also a part of me that is concerned about that transition period.
- Which book should I read next?
This is always the question, isn’t it? I live with a flooded Amazon wishlist. Clearing that thing out would run me at least $300, and that’s after I went through and purged out the books I deemed not vital. Before going on Amazon and purchasing the next book, I need to finish the plethora of books I’ve already started. And then I need to be thinking about costs…
- How can I cut costs?
Libraries. How is it so easy to forget about libraries? They are quite literally knowledge headquarters. I went to my local library last week and picked up 3 books that would have ran me a combined $60 on Amazon. Instead of buying them and having them sit on my shelf for a while before finally reading (or not reading and living with that regret), I can go to the library, rent the books I want to read, and not shell out lots of money for it. Then, enter notecard system…
- How do I remember everything I read?
Write it down. That’s the way. I believe that one reason I succeeded in college was because of my deliberate decision to take analog notes. On a personal level, I have always felt that I remembered things a whole lot better when writing analog. So my solution to that is to write in my journal and on notecards quotes, concepts, and inspired thoughts that I deem to be worth remembering. Maybe one day I can have a notecard system like Ryan Holiday.
- What is the role of fitness in my life now?
I crafted a Twitter thread on this fairly recently, but a major question of mine is the role of physical training in my life now that I’m done with baseball. I have had a hard time finding balance in this; either it becomes a primary focus of mine or I get dangerously close to completely neglecting it. I don’t like either option, so I am seeking something more in the middle. I still don’t have that answered, and I don’t know when I will.
- How does fitness fit in with the other parts of my life?
One realization I have had concerning the role of fitness in my life is that my desire to train at that same high intensity I once trained at isn’t there and that I don’t need to solely work out in the gym. I can exercise in various ways such as swimming, biking, rowing machines, golfing, and going on walks. Working out doesn’t need to include a scoop of pre-workout and heavy metal music to count.
This ties in to the question because I realized that I was fighting myself. I was telling myself that I liked the physical training now because I did back then. While I do still enjoy the squat, deadlift, and bench press, I no longer spend 24 hours each day optimizing my training sessions. In fact, I have flipped my life around so that working out helps to optimize other parts of my life such as my early morning creative output and focus at work. It’s a dramatic shift and one that I’m still not completely adjusted to.
- What do I need to say no to?
I am frequently greeted with new ideas and opportunities, many of them enticing. While I want to do many of these things, I need to say no somewhere. For an eager 24 year old, it can be very difficult to say no to seemingly good things to maintain room for the most important things…
- What are my priorities?
Without priorities, I’ll be tempted to say yes to everything and will leave myself stressed, burnt out, and depressed. It’s crucial that I develop and stick to certain priorities, even if that means I have to say no to certain “good” opportunities.
- How do I compare to others my age?
While people everywhere will tell you not to compare yourself with others, it’s almost impossible not to. We are all on different trajectories and paths, but we still cannot resist the temptation to compare. It’s natural. We want to know if we’re doing something wrong, yes. But I think most often we want to find out if we’re doing something right. I have almost zero contact with anyone I attended high school with, but it is always nice to hear a report on how one of my classmates is doing. While it is not healthy, I can use this information to compare my life to theirs and remind myself that I’m doing just fine relative to the general population of the class of 2013.
- Why do I care so much?
Caring is a good thing until it’s not. At some point, you need to dissociate yourself from certain things. I have learned the virtue of this by reading Ryan Holiday’s books, for example. Eventually, you must deliberately choose to become dispassionate about something to truly become free from it. If we allow ourselves to be swept away by the waves of passion, we will find ourselves drowning in the raging rivers of doubt, confusion, and regret. By becoming dispassionate about certain things, we allow ourselves to think rationally and be free from the raging carnal emotions that ensnare us. When we are led by the Spirit of God, these carnal thought patterns and passions dissolve and we are free to be the full expression of who God has designed us to be. I’ve preached this truth to myself time and time again, but I still have a tendency to want to do things on my own.
- Can God be trusted?
If you’re a Christian, this is an insane question. It is one that I would emphatically answer yes to if asked by a stranger on the street. But it is not enough for me to simply have a theological understanding of God. While that is important, I must know him experientially. The Greek word for this is epignosis. Think of it as epic knowledge. It’s the experiential knowledge that comes from living a life of faith that is my nature. In Christ, my nature is to live a life both led by the Spirit and of faith. (You can thank Bill Johnson for that wisdom).
So while I intellectually know God can be trusted, I want my experience to match up to that truth. I want my life to be a signpost that tells every person that God is a good, trustworthy God. It frightens me that I could get to the end of the life and only have a few experiences from my teens that declare the goodness and trustworthiness of God.
- Am I depressed?
There is a family history of depression on one side of my family, and I have had periods of life where I have been abnormally down on life. Is this normal for a 24 year old, or is this something more serious?
- Will I ever get to see another Packers Super Bowl victory?
I’ve been extremely lucky. The only quarterbacks I’ve known under center in Green Bay are Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. With these two legends of the game, you’d sure think we’d have won more than 2 Lombardi Trophies in 24 years. I remember the first one only through pictures of the event and I passed out on the couch after a long church retreat weekend in 2010 for the entirety of the second quarter. With Aaron Rodgers not getting older, I’m a little ticked that I may never get to enjoy the pure bliss of my favorite NFL team winning a Super Bowl again.
- What am I going to do with the rest of my life?
I hate this question, but I still think about it. What is life going to be like in a year? 5 years? 10 years? 40 years? This is one area where I can exercise trust and faith in God and believe that He is really is big enough to right any mistake I make. As someone who loves to create systems and organize my life with the future in mind, this is a challenging mindset. Can I truly trust God to lead me in my systems and to organize my life in a way that places me in the heart of where He wants me?
- Do I really need this thing?
Usually, the answer is no. I’m inspired by minimalists and their commitment to simple living. I admire the way they have cut out much of the unnecessary clutter from their lives and seem to walk around with a much freer mind compared to so many who are bogged down in the chase to keep up with the world around them. Whenever I am contemplating a purchase of a new item, I think about how this item is going to be used, when it is going to be used, and if I really need it. In many cases, this has resulted in me not going through with a purchase and saving myself money and regret in the process–two major wins.
- What can I get rid of?
With my minimalist inspiration, I’ve been searching my room identifying things that aren’t adding value to my life for any number of reasons. I heard of a minimalist game where you get rid of one item on the first day of a month, and add one item each day to match the date throughout the entire month. As of writing this, I’ve gotten rid of 10 items. It’s a refreshing experience to be intentionally purging one’s living space of things that do not add value but only cause more physical, emotional, and mental clutter. I have always been one to easily get rid of things, but the true breakthrough will come when the desire to always have more gets uprooted and replaced with the peace of mind that comes through simple living and contentment.
- What is this next year going to look like?
In less than 90 days, I am going to enter one of the (if not the biggest) transition periods of my life. As I mentioned earlier, I’m getting married. We are also moving to a new city. These two changes are enough to insert fear into even the most fear-averse people out there. I have some ideas of what life is going to look like in that new season, but I will never know fully. There’s so many things that I will only know through the living of it.
- How do you swing a golf club?
I picked up golf this summer and even went ahead and invested in some fitted clubs. They’re very nice. With my new clubs, I’m still not shooting scores that would earn me the respect of members at my local country club. So while it is a lower-stakes question, it’s a question I desire to answer nonetheless.
- Should I still eat vertical?
I enjoy structure, so Stan Efferding’s diet plan works great for me. But I still laugh at the fact that I’m carrying around thermoses of ground sirloin and rice with a cranberry and orange juice cocktail on the side to work every day. It seems like overkill for a guy who’s lost 20 pounds and significantly decreased in size since the beginning of summer. A major part of that 20 pound loss came through the vertical diet, but I still debate whether I truly need it going forward.
- Can I stay focused?
I know I’m not alone in that my mind seems to go a million miles per minute. Perhaps you’ve seen this within this blog as I go from serious life contemplation to the Green Bay Packers. I have struggled to stay focused on one thing for long enough to get real traction in that area ever since retiring from baseball. Dabbling is not the secret to success. Spending real amounts of time in deep work and maintaining focus vastly increases the chance of finding success and developing “passion”.
My 25th year is going to be the most exciting year of my life. There’s so much transition going on that will bring answers to some of these questions. But I expect there will be even more questions with higher stakes and fewer concrete answers. That’s the beauty of life. It’s more about asking the right questions than it is about knowing the right answers.
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