I cannot help but to admit to a sense of sweet melancholy.
I went to a wedding on Saturday, as Holly’s guest; the bride was one of her staff members. The ceremony was quite lovely and the reception tasteful, but the newlyweds are young and beautiful and have — by all accounts — lived a charmed life.
Of course, I wish the new couple well as they begin their new life together. Weddings are a time of great joy, and even though I didn’t know either the bride or the groom, I was honored to have been welcomed into their circle, even if for a day.
Marriages of the young and the reasonably well-off are a triumph of enthusiasm only weakly tempered by experience. This is by no means bad, yet the watching of it does offer opportunity for reflection.
For my part, listening to the stories and watching the slide-show of photo memories from the married couple prompted thoughts of what might have been had I made different choices in my own life. The older I grow, the more aware I become of the various signposts marking the major decisions or incidents of my past. Decisions about where to work as a teenager, where to go to college, what to experience of collegiate social life, where to focus my energies — all of these have taken the formlessness of new life and given it the peaks and valleys through which the river of time will flow.
And it prompts thoughts about whether it’s time to erect a new signpost. The chief barrier to excellence isn’t adversity, it’s comfort — when adequacy can be obtained without pain, the incentive to achieve diminishes. Too much in my life is comfortable. My job is not especially challenging, my family is relatively tranquil, I have just enough friends to not feel like a total loser. And so it’s easier to do anything else but the hard work of self-improvement. Is it time, perhaps, to introduce some discomfort into my life? Perhaps by packing up and leaving West Michigan?
I don’t want to end up a bitter old man whose life is filled with retrospective regret. But the siren of comfort — existential, psychological comfort — sings with great allure.