I have been intrigued by the gift of a bonus life since I first heard of it in 2009. I had gone to see the Dalai Lama speak on a panel. But my memory wasn’t what that revered man said. Instead, it was what a woman seated on his panel said.
Her name was Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America at the time. To paraphrase, she said that never in history and nowhere else on the planet today, do people have about 20 ADDITIONAL years of life that we do!
On average, of course. But still. 20 extra bonus years?!? That is almost an extra adulthood. And it is unique to us today here in the developed world. And the better news? Not only is our life span increasing, but so is what the medical community is now calling our “health span” – the amount of healthy years.
Wouldn’t it make sense that I would think of my adulthood differently? Not “plan to save more for retirement” but plan to LIVE more in adulthood? And couldn’t that extra 10-20 years be leveraged to really make a difference?
What will we do with that extra life??
In the ensuing years after that panel with the Dalai Lama, I tucked that concept away. I was focused on what I was going to do with my life. I needed and wanted to work. But I knew I wanted some fulfillment. I wanted to know my strengths, gifts, talents, and then use them in service of something that was meaningful to me. Small goals right? But I was determined. Why NOT go after work that won’t feel like work? Why not explore what my North Star is? It seemed important. I took classes at various venues in Chicago, such as the Women’s Exchange in Winnetka. Life Planning was a great start. Learning about Enneagram and Myers Briggs. Taking a class on the Artist’s Way. Meeting Joan Anderson, who explores this concept, and taking a one day workshop with her. Working with life coaches, career advisors. Traveling to the Omega Institute in New York and to Kripalu in Massachusetts and the Sophia Institute in Charleston. All this and more. All were in service of learning. About who I was. About mindfulness. About living creatively.
And then it dawned on me. What I was trying to do could be the purpose I was searching for. Engaging with people like me who want to approach this “bonus life” in the way I want to approach it. With intention, purpose and the freedom to craft it without some constraints we face when we are younger.
It is a journey to mindfulness, meaning and purpose that can lead to fulfillment.
Well, here I am. My youngest son just left for college and my nest is (relatively) empty. Time to stop thinking and wondering and learning. Time to start doing.
So I quit my job. It was a great job. I worked for a large family foundation that made an enormous impact in Chicago and throughout the world. My colleagues were smart, dedicated and a joy to see every day. But it just wasn’t “it” for me.
I wanted to take a sabbatical. Time to really reflect on what I can do that will be of service to the world and provide fulfillment and meaning to me in a profound way.
So I am off. On a three month trip alone to Europe. To immerse myself in different ways of living. To learn to trust myself.
I’m taking a big risk. I have tuition bills still to pay. I need to work. I need to get a job as soon as I get back. But I believe that this bonus life is real and it requires time, intention and commitment to discover what it can be. I am on an adventure of discovery. A treasure hunt.
As Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune published, and my friend Marlene also passed along, the following poem seems to sum it up:
When you travel, you find yourself alone in a different way, more attentive now to the self you bring along, Your more subtle eye watching you abroad; and how what meets you touches that part of the heart that lies low at home.