Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Life Checkpoints

By Kyle Slavin

As a man progresses through his life, he often creates future checkpoints to measure himself against: the plan to a life successful, a blueprint to all accomplishment.

Figure out the career by 25, we say.

Find the girl by 30.

Kids by 35, house by 40…and just make sure you can find the bathroom regularly after that.

Perhaps we do this to track our achievements, or to make sure our own personal evolution is still progressing forward in some way.  Perhaps we understand where we wish to go, and the steps necessary to get there.  (Or perhaps there’s a little OCD in all of us.)

Either way, as each checkpoint passes, there is a moment of quiet recognition – a look back, a pause, and the realization that absolutely none of our carefully-planned checkpoints have happened at all how we intended.

*             *             *

I turn 30 years old today.  Though I have lived most of my life with the intent to be the perfect gentleman, I have realized that I couldn’t have taken a more haphazard and backwards path to my current situation.  I have had my share of trouble and triumph, sticky scenarios and golden ceilings.  Like all of us, I always tried to make the best out of whatever situation I was in, with mixed results.

My plan was perfect.  The checkpoints were true.  But if planning ensured success, we’d all be wearing top hats and monocles by now, diving into pools of gold coins – and we’d all have far less interesting stories to tell.

We have a saying here at American Gentleman: that the gentleman is made, not born.  This means that our individual plans, no matter now intricately they lay before us, may crumble in a pinch.  Our riches may become ruin and our foundations may fracture, but if you work to cultivate your class, integrity, and bravado, you can never lose your status as a Gentleman.

As men, we need war stories.  There is character within them.  Our scars show worldliness, and the sweat of our journey comes through with integrity.  No matter your social status or origin, you become a gentleman the day you start giving a damn.

Now, at 30, I realize that had I followed my checkpoints to the marker, my life would not have been nearly as interesting as it was.

I would not have had the experiences that define me, I would not have laughed nearly as often, and I definitely would not have met the love of my life and had the confidence to propose to her.

So I ask of you, what are your future checkpoints, and have you met the ones from your past?  How important is it to live your life to a schedule, and how important is it to deviate from your original plans?

Would you have met your girlfriend or wife had you kept to your plan?  Or would you have been more successful in your career had you not strayed?

Do you favor your spontaneity, or your steadfastness?

What makes you, as a man?