What Does “Living It Up” Actually Mean?

Tell me, I want to know. This is a serious question. Unlike most of you out there, wearing your distressed jeans and sunglasses, I’m one of those people who’s never had a “really fun” summer hanging out with a posse of friends, listening to music, and talking smack. No, I never have had an experience like that. So, perhaps this explains my fixation on trying to define what it means to “live it up.” While what sounds like fun to me right now differs from what I’d consider fun as a teen, the truth is that these notions aren’t so far apart. I still like to do a lot of the same things–only now, as an adult, it’s a whole lot harder to gather the posse together (the talking smack comes easy).

I think the crux of my issue is that I have this sense of wistfulness wondering what I missed—you know, during all those times when you normal, popular kids were doing normal, popular things. It’s hard to be the odd man out. Looking back on it this isn’t all so sad. The truth is, there are a lot of activities I don’t enjoy that would easily satisfy the “cool kid criteria.” Cruises don’t appeal to me, nor do tattoos or mixing it up in Florida on spring break. None of that sounds like fun. “The thing about it is,” I commiserated with a friend who feels similarly, “we need to take off those Little House on the Prairie bonnets and go DO something!” But WHAT? What would satisfy this craving?

A perception problem arises when we compare what we want to do versus the accepted norm. So, I ask you, does “living it up” require some variation of physical risk in order to qualify? Has an Army Ranger “lived” more than a librarian? Do we need to get “messed up” or do something illicit? Must we be naughty in order for it to satisfy? I’m asking a serious question. When you’re lying there on your deathbed, looking back on your life, what is it that you will have wished you had done? Answer in light of a text a friend sent me, “OMG misbehaving is SO FUN!” Now, doesn’t that make you the teeniest bit wistful?

When was the last time you felt a sense of mischief and fun?

I know a whole lot of adults, from sea to shining sea, who shrug when I ask them this question. “Eh,” they reply, their answer drifting away. “There was that time we took the kids to a fun park…” And I’m sure that was fun—but what else? Is there anything more that you can think of? Is there anything that inspires more than a middling response? What feels like fun for you in the sense of “living it up” sort of fun? Do you think its even possible for you to have that sort of fun, anymore?

There’s something about the sense of risk that may be part of the answer, but I know I am equally correct in saying that none of us would want to be chased by Somali pirates. Why does doing something we “shouldn’t” hold such strong appeal? People do it ALL THE TIME. Now, why is that? (Personally, I love being naughty—and I’m pretty uptight a lot of the time.) Why do people feel so constrained in their lives that the only thing that feels viscerally thrilling is to engage in risky behavior? (I mean, this has got to be why flashers run around, but I don’t think of that as living it up, I just think of that as creepy and sad.) Does it arise from a fuzzy sense of rebellion? Defiance? Beating the odds? Getting away with something? I don’t know. What do you think?

I’m getting you all stirred up for a REASON: it is this exact, same wellspring of energy that will fuel your re-booting. Re-booting involves risk. Re-booting requires courage. Re-booting means doing something unexpected that we want to do. We don’t know what the outcome will be—what can make us feel more alive than that? What could be more terrifying? Oh, I know. Remaining stuck in our rut—this is a far worse result. Sure, we may be sitting there with our Little House on the Prairie bonnets all nicely tied under our chins (and, guys, this goes for you, too). We may even sit on the back of the wagon, enjoying the breeze—at 5 mph, groan—but is that enough? Is that enough for your life? WELL, IS IT?!?

Summer’s around the corner offering us the promise of warm, lazy nights and abundant sunshine. That’s as much as it can offer, the rest is up to us. What are you going to do with your opportunities? Forget how crappy you look in a bathing suit or how you need to stand vigil on the side of the pool so others don’t drown—they can fend for themselves—get out there and SWIM!

 Swimming hole

 

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