Life is a bitch. Then you die. So while staring at my navel the other day, I decided that that bitch happens in four stages. Here they are.
Stage One: Mimicry
We are born helpless. We can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t feed ourselves, can’t even do our own damn taxes.
As children, the way we’re wired to learn is by watching and mimicking others. First we learn to do physical skills like walk and talk. Then we develop social skills by watching and mimicking our peers around us. Then, finally, in late childhood, we learn to adapt to our culture by observing the rules and norms around us and trying to behave in such a way that is generally considered acceptable by society.
The goal of Stage One is to teach us how to function within society so that we can be autonomous, self-sufficient adults. The idea is that the adults in the community around us help us to reach this point through supporting our ability to make decisions and take action ourselves.
But some adults and community members around us suck.1 They punish us for our independence. They don’t support our decisions. And therefore we don’t develop autonomy. We get stuck in Stage One, endlessly mimicking those around us, endlessly attempting to please all so that we might not be judged.2
In a “normal” healthy individual, Stage One will last until late adolescence and early adulthood.3 For some people, it may last further into adulthood. A select few wake up one day at age 45 realizing they’ve never actually lived for themselves and wonder where the hell the years went.
This is Stage One. The mimicry. The constant h. The absence of independent thought and personal values.
We must be aware of the standards and expectations of those around us. But we must also become strong enough to act in spite of those standards and expectations when we feel it is necessary. We must develop the ability to act by ourselves and for ourselves.
Stage Two: Self-Discovery
In Stage One, we learn to fit in with the people and culture around us. Stage Two is about learning what makes us different from the people and culture around us. Stage Two requires us to begin making decisions for ourselves, to test ourselves, and to understand ourselves and what makes us unique.
Stage Two involves a lot of trial-and-error and experimentation. We experiment with living in new places, hanging out with new people, imbibing new substances, and playing with new people’s orifices.
In my Stage Two, I ran off and visited fifty-something countries. My brother’s Stage Two was diving headfirst into the political system in Washington DC. Everyone’s Stage Two is slightly different because every one of us is slightly different.
Stage Two is a process of self-discovery. We try things. Some of them go well. Some of them don’t. The goal is to stick with the ones that go well and move on.
Stage Two lasts until we begin to run up against our own limitations. This doesn’t sit well with many people. But despite what Oprah and Deepak Chopra may tell you, discovering your own limitations is a good and healthy thing.
You’re just going to be bad at some things, no matter how hard you try. And you need to know what they are. I am not genetically inclined to ever excel at anything athletic whatsoever. It sucked for me to learn that, but I did. I’m also about as capable of feeding myself as an infant drooling applesauce all over the floor. That was important to find out as well. We all must learn what we suck at. And the earlier in our life that we learn it, the better.
So we’re just bad at some things. Then there are other things that are great for a while, but begin to have diminishing returns after a few years. Traveling the world is one example. Sexing a ton of people is another. Drinking on a Tuesday night is a third. There are many more. Trust me.
Your limitations are important because you must eventually come to the realization that your time on this planet is limited and, therefore, you should spend it on things that matter most. That means realizing that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it. That means realizing that just because you like certain people doesn’t mean you should be with them. That means realizing that there are opportunity costs to everything and that you can’t have it all.
There are some people who never allow themselves to feel limitations — either because they refuse to admit their failures, or because they delude themselves into believing that their limitations don’t exist. These people get stuck in Stage Two.
These are the “serial entrepreneurs” who are 38 and living with mom and still haven’t made any money after 15 years of trying. These are the “aspiring actors” who are still waiting tables and haven’t done an audition in two years. These are the people who can’t settle into a long-term relationship because they always have a gnawing feeling that there’s someone better around the corner. These are the people who brush all of their failings aside as “releasing” negativity into the universe or “purging” their baggage from their lives.
At some point we all must admit the inevitable: life is short, not all of our dreams can come true, so we should carefully pick and choose what we have the best shot at and commit to it.
But people stuck in Stage Two spend most of their time convincing themselves of the opposite. That they are limitless. That they can overcome all. That their life is that of non-stop growth and ascendance in the world, while everyone else can clearly see that they are merely running in place.
In healthy individuals, Stage Two begins in mid- to late-adolescence and lasts into a person’s mid-20s to mid-30s.4 People who stay in Stage Two beyond that are popularly referred to as those with “Peter Pan Syndrome” — the eternal adolescents, always discovering themselves but finding nothing.
Stage Three: Commitment
Once you’ve pushed your own boundaries and either found your limitations (i.e., athletics, the culinary arts) or found the diminishing returns of certain activities (i.e., partying, video games, masturbation) then you are left with what’s both a) actually important to you, and b) what you’re not terrible at. Now it’s time to make your dent in the world.
Stage Three is the great consolidation of one’s life. Out go the friends who are draining you and holding you back. Out go the activities and hobbies that are a mindless waste of time. Out go the old dreams that are clearly not coming true anytime soon.
Then you double down on what you’re best at and what is best to you. You double down on the most important relationships in your life. You double down on a single mission in life, whether that’s to work on the world’s energy crisis or to be a bitching digital artist or to become an expert in brains or have a bunch of snotty, drooling children. Whatever it is, Stage Three is when you get it done.
Stage Three is all about maximizing your own potential in this life. It’s all about building your legacy. What will you leave behind when you’re gone? What will people remember you by? Whether that’s a breakthrough study or an amazing new product or an adoring family, Stage Three is about leaving the world a little bit different than the way you found it.
Stage Three ends when a combination of two things happen: 1) you feel as though there’s not much else you are able to accomplish, and 2) you get old and tired and find that you would rather sip martinis and do crossword puzzles all day.
In “normal” individuals, Stage Three generally lasts from around 30-ish-years-old until one reaches retirement age.
People who get lodged in Stage Three often do so because they don’t know how to let go of their ambition and constant desire for more. This inability to let go of the power and influence they crave counteracts the natural calming effects of time and they will often remain driven and hungry well into their 70s and 80s.5
Stage Four: Legacy
People arrive into Stage Four having spent somewhere around half a century investing themselves in what they believed was meaningful and important. They did great things, worked hard, earned everything they have, maybe started a family or a charity or a political or cultural revolution or two, and now they’re done. They’ve reached the age where their energy and circumstances no longer allow them to pursue their purpose any further.
The goal of Stage Four then becomes not to create a legacy as much as simply making sure that legacy lasts beyond one’s death.
This could be something as simple as supporting and advising their (now grown) children and living vicariously through them. It could mean passing on their projects and work to a protégé or apprentice. It could also mean becoming more politically active to maintain their values in a society that they no longer recognize.
Stage Four is important psychologically because it makes the ever-growing reality of one’s own mortality more bearable. As humans, we have a deep need to feel as though our lives mean something. This meaning we constantly search for is literally our only psychological defense against the incomprehensibility of this life and the inevitability of our own death.6 To lose that meaning, or to watch it slip away, or to slowly feel as though the world has left you behind, is to stare oblivion in the face and let it consume you willingly.
What’s the Point?
Developing through each subsequent stage of life grants us greater control over our happiness and well-being.7
In Stage One, a person is wholly dependent on other people’s actions and approval to be happy. This is a horrible strategy because other people are unpredictable and unreliable.
In Stage Two, one becomes reliant on oneself, but they’re still reliant on external success to be happy — making money, accolades, victory, conquests, etc. These are more controllable than other people, but they are still mostly unpredictable in the long-run.
Stage Three relies on a handful of relationships and endeavors that proved themselves resilient and worthwhile through Stage Two. These are more reliable. And finally, Stage Four requires we only hold on to what we’ve already accomplished as long as possible.
At each subsequent stage, happiness becomes based more on internal, controllable values and less on the externalities of the ever-changing outside world.
Later stages don’t replace previous stages. They transcend them. Stage Two people still care about social approval. They just care about something more than social approval. Stage 3 people still care about testing their limits. They just care more about the commitments they’ve made.
Each stage represents a reshuffling of one’s life priorities. It’s for this reason that when one transitions from one stage to another, one will often experience a fallout in one’s friendships and relationships. If you were Stage Two and all of your friends were Stage Two, and suddenly you settle down, commit and get to work on Stage Three, yet your friends are still Stage Two, there will be a fundamental disconnect between your values and theirs that will be difficult to overcome.
Generally speaking, people project their own stage onto everyone else around them. People at Stage One will judge others by their ability to achieve social approval. People at Stage Two will judge others by their ability to push their own boundaries and try new things. People at Stage Three will judge others based on their commitments and what they’re able to achieve. People at Stage Four judge others based on what they stand for and what they’ve chosen to live for.
The Value of Trauma
Self-development is often portrayed as a rosy, flowery progression from dumbass to enlightenment that involves a lot of joy, prancing in fields of daisies, and high-fiving two thousand people at a seminar you paid way too much to be at.
But the truth is that transitions between the life stages are usually triggered by trauma or an extreme negative event in one’s life. A near-death experience. A divorce. A failed friendship or a death of a loved one.
Trauma causes us to step back and re-evaluate our deepest motivations and decisions. It allows us to reflect on whether our strategies to pursue happiness are actually working well or not.
What Gets Us Stuck
The same thing gets us stuck at every stage: a sense of personal inadequacy.
People get stuck at Stage One because they always feel as though they are somehow flawed and different from others, so they put all of their effort into conforming into what those around them would like to see. No matter how much they do, they feel as though it is never enough.
Stage Two people get stuck because they feel as though they should always be doing more, doing something better, doing something new and exciting, improving at something. But no matter how much they do, they feel as though it is never enough.
Stage Three people get stuck because they feel as though they have not generated enough meaningful influence in the world, that they make a greater impact in the specific areas that they have committed themselves to. But no matter how much they do, they feel as though it is never enough.8
One could even argue that Stage Four people feel stuck because they feel insecure that their legacy will not last or make any significant impact on the future generations. They cling to it and hold onto it and promote it with every last gasping breath. But they never feel as though it is enough.
The solution at each stage is then backwards. To move beyond Stage One, you must accept that you will never be enough for everybody all the time, and therefore you must make decisions for yourself.
To move beyond Stage Two, you must accept that you will never be capable of accomplishing everything you can dream and desire, and therefore you must zero in on what matters most and commit to it.
To move beyond Stage Three, you must realize that time and energy are limited, and therefore you must refocus your attention to helping others take over the meaningful projects you began.
To move beyond Stage Four, you must realize that change is inevitable, and that the influence of one person, no matter how great, no matter how powerful, no matter how meaningful, will eventually dissipate too.
And life will go on.
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Life: What I Think It Is - Stages Of Life Essay - With A Free Essay Review
What is life? What I think of life is a one way ticket on a train that you dont know where it leads to and where and how it ends. This train stops at many depots. These depots consist of: Toddler, Pre-Teen, Teenager, Adulthood, and Elder hood, oh and of course the depot station Death.
Being a toddler is where it all would start, choosing to do homework, find friends, and learn how to do the things needed on the track of life you want to take. Pre-Teen would consist of you narrowing down to the train track you would most likely want to continue your life on. The schoolwork would get harder but thats just to start challenging you for what is to come later on. The choice of relationships, maybe this is your first shot at asking someone out, or maybe this is your 3rd or 4th shot at a relationship that you will hope will turn out in the near future where you become married with this person, have kids, and lead a perfectly wonderful life, but thats just every pre-teens dream.
Teenager is where stuff starts to switch and where everything becomes a blur and you dont figure out how and why you chose that. This is the stage where I think everything starts to crumble down. Youve become friends with most of the people in your class and you want to see you and them get along throughout high school and so forth. Soon itll turn out to some of those classmates will soon start hanging out with older people, they will be invited to parties, offered a smoke, a drink, or some weed. Some will take and some wont. This is where your life could change, you could decide to smoke and get addicted, decide to drink and get addicted, and decide to smoke some weed and get addicted to the point where every nice word that comes out of your parents will sound as if they are screaming and yelling at you because you decided to sneak out and make horrible decisions that could alter most of the things you know. All they want to do is help you and put you on a better track in life to keep you going.
Adulthood, this is where I think is the biggest move on your Life Train. This is where you become independent and move away from home. This is where your life would either start, or keep going if you took great pathways to get there. If you chose the right path of soberness, you will have the chance to go to college on scholarships and grants. If you chose the sideways path, you may be able to squeeze your way into college, as well as you would be finding trouble. By the time you are passed the schooling stage of your life, you should be prepared for the world, because the world is prepared to take you down and strangle you with bills, finding a job, contracts, and as well as lawsuits. By the time you have conquered that you will be there until you are ready to retire into elder hood.
And now we get to elder hood, where you wonder whats happened with the world and why has it changed so fast, if you even get to the point of elder hood. If you are there and in good shape means youve possibly lived your life the way youve always wanted it to be, you ended up with the love of your dreams, or not. Youve probably successfully had loving grandchildren to tell your stories too. Thats what I think life is, living it to the fullest and having children to pass on the greatness of life hoping they choose a good train track to ride on. And lastly, you get to the point where you cannot move or are to sick to even see straight. Youre lying on a hospital bed, your whole family is there for you waiting to find a cure to your illness, and you find yourself looking back on what had mattered the most to you in your life. You feel yourself creeping closer and closer to death, praying that you wont go; you dont want to leave everyone and everything youve come to love. You take your last breath before you fall into the deepest sleep youve ever encountered. You might not or ever know the feeling of being dead. I imagine death as you dreaming, starting over a new life where nothing can touch you as you are invincible. You feel as you can do anything you were not able to attempt in your real life. You can see all the close friends and relatives that have passed away before you, you converse with them, catch up on their life, act like nothing has changed since high school. Maybe you go to the imaginary movie theater or something; no one ever knows what death feels like and what happens in the afterlife. I think that its whatever you want it to be.
There is no true meaning to life as a whole; its what you set it out to be. Youre the conductor to the train, you have to make the decisions, if you make good decisions you make it to your destination when you wanted to and how you wanted to arrive. If you had made wrong decisions you might find yourself derailed.
Your essay seems rather like just a list of stuff that happens in life, written much too casually (that is to say, with little regard for the rules; there are rules!) and with very little reflection on the significance of any of that stuff, and so there is very little to tie the listed stuff together as an essay. Although everything you say is superficially connected by virtue of the shared theme (the stuff that happens theme), then, the essay doesn't constitute a coherent whole. That's because you don't really have anything to say about "life as a whole," as you admit in your final paragraph. And in that case, it's not clear why one would bother writing the essay. It would be better (for the essay, if not for us) if you held that life was meaningless; then one could wind one's curmudgeonly way through the stages of life demonstrating how all that sound and fury signifies nothing (Ay, that's Macbeth). As it stands, the closest you come to making an argument is when you say, in your final paragraph, that lifes "what you set it out to be." That's an awkwardly articulated argument and, worse, its banal; but at least it is something, or it would be something if the essay actually tried to demonstrate something about the role of personal decision and determination in the conduct and experience of life. Alternatively, you could talk about "life as a whole" in terms of relationships, since you seem interested in relationships. You need something, in any case, to tie the threads of your story about life together. The only thing doing that at the moment is your train and your tracks.
The silly train metaphor, however, doesn't really provide any additional insight, and ends up being a source of confusion. At the outset, you put your reader in the position of a passenger with a one-way ticket; at the end, the passenger has become the conductor making decisions (but, really, what decisions of moment does a conductor on a train make?). So, once youve found something to write about (to argue about), I suggest that you then get off the train and find some other form of transportation.
P.S. Some other forms of transportation to carry you through maturation, decay, and descent (into hell):
Stroller - hanging out at the mall is AWESOME, except the diaper doesnt get changed for four hours
Tricycle - cruising the hall and crashing into walls
Bike with training wheels - checking out the neighborhood, even the stuff thats like almost fifty yards from the front door
Regular bike - going to school the cool way, sometimes using only the back wheel. Radical.
Parent's 16-year-old Toyota Corolla - driving to school like a 16-year-old boss.
Wicked new blood-red Pontiac with custom rims and spoiler - going hunting.
Minivan - three little aftereffects of successful hunting want to go to soccer practice.
Porsche - Mid-life crisis? Solved.
Four-door sedan with plush, heated seats - because every time the grandchildren come to visit, you end up with a sore back. Also, hemorrhoids
Wheelchair-accessible passenger van - because day trips from the nursing home are AWESOME, except the diaper doesnt get changed for four hours.
Ambulance - Because some punk volunteer with acne thinks blood in the diaper is a big deal.
Hearse - because its hard to rage against the dying of the light when you cant remember who you are.
Charon's Ferry - because you've got your coin and the other bank looks totally swell.
Submitted by: pabelmon
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