Man Up Musings - Man Up Adventures


Nathan Thompson


I happen to live in an apartment that has the kind of sound insulation that acts more like an amplifier than a barrier. The rejoicing I heard emanating from the neighbor kid in the apartment next door at 7am this morning could’ve only meant one thing: Today was the last day of school.

Do you remember those days?

Do you remember the euphoric feeling of freedom that washed over you when the final school bell of the year rang and you knew you were free?

Can you recall the endless hours of fun you had running through the vacant fields with your neighborhood friends, playing endless games of summer baseball, or building forts in the woods?

Those were the days… Too bad they were so long ago… Too bad they’re gone…

I stopped to count today, only to realize that it’s been 15 years since I walked out of my high school for the last time. Where does the time go…

It’s a good question, really. Where indeed does the time go?

As I’ve moved deeper into life, I’ve come to believe the statement that I heard all the “older” people make while I was growing up: “Time moves faster the older you get.” While it seems to be true, my bigger question is, why is that?

Maybe the answer to the “where has the time gone” question has more to do with the events that do – or don’t - take place during the different phases of our life than the actual speed of the time we claim is slipping by so fast.

What if our perceived movement of time has less to do with our age, and more to do with the structure, progression and graduation that strong vision and purpose bring to an individual’s life?

Allow me to explain.

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Think back to your time spent in school as a kid.

I’ll never forget my mom taking me to my first day of preschool. I was three. That year I learned that sandboxes could exist indoors, that hot chocolate was yummy after a morning of sledding, and that Neal was not a nice boy when he wore his bear costume to school for dress-up day. Looking back beyond social interaction, letters, numbers, shapes, and colors, what two years of preschool really taught me was the value of structure and purpose.

It also taught me the value of graduation.

I can plainly remember the day I graduated from preschool. After a cap and gown ceremony at the preschool, my parents whisked me home to a surprise graduation party where there were friends, gifts, and food waiting for me. It was a day that was set aside to celebrate me; a day to reflect on the culmination of two years of intentionality, structure and purpose.

That day I learned the joy of graduation. I learned that having greater purpose (and sticking with it) pays off; with gifts, applause, and the greatest payment of all - summer break.

I also learned that there is another side to graduation. Graduation means that you take a step into a bigger arena; it means that more is going to be required of you; it means that you’re off to the next big stage of life. Which, for me, was kindergarten.

With kindergarten the whole process began again, culminating with my graduation from elementary school, and restarting with my entrance to middle school, only to be repeated with junior high, and then again with high school.

With college things changed a bit. There was more flexibility, but there was still a sense of overarching purpose and a semblance of structure in place. Then I graduated from college.

Looking back over my adult life, that’s precisely the point when life began to speed up.

As I look at the landscape of my pre-college graduation life, I see three important factors that were consistently present.

1. A Constant Sense of Direction and Purpose

While it’s true that when you’re young there are less choices that you have to make, one cannot discount the obvious: The first 18 years of the typical American kid’s life is predestined. There is no wondering, thinking about, or deciding what the next year will hold. It’s simple: school, school and school.

Preschool leads to kindergarten, which leads to first grade, etc. On and on the annual progression goes; a nonnegotiable staircase of structure that climbs toward more and more responsibility, and culminates in the accomplishment of graduation.

As a student, you always knew where you were going. If you were a sixth grader, you were headed for seventh grade. It was your purpose; your destiny.

Additionally, there was a sense of accountability with the people that were on the journey with you. You knew that if you didn’t apply yourself to your purpose that you’d be held back and your peers would move on without you. You didn’t want to have to face the shame of being left behind, so you applied yourself and found that it was rewarding to experience the accomplishment of graduation.

The goal of graduating from school provided a form of vision and purpose for your life. School was a means to accomplishing that goal, and school provided plenty of structure to keep you focused on your goal. Life was simple because there was structure fueled by purpose and expectation.

2. Annual Graduation, Validation and Promotion

While my more memorable graduations all preceded the moves from one educational building to another (ie - elementary to middle school), every year provided a specific opportunity to experience a graduation process.

Graduation ceremonies are vital to us as human beings because they mark the accomplishment of great feats. Graduations validate us, and act as a rite of passage to promote us to the next big stage of life. Graduations also serve as a way to bring defined closure to time periods in our life. Graduations mean that you’ve persevered; you’ve made it; you did it, and that you’re now qualified to take on what comes next.

This is why we celebrate with graduates every spring/summer. By celebrating we’re acknowledging the effort involved and validating the fruition of the graduate’s goal. The accomplishment of one’s vision and purpose deserves a special time of celebration and recognition.

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3. A Prescribed Break

What good is grinding toward a purpose if there’s never a payoff?

The greatest graduation gift for me – and every other kid - each year was summer vacation.

Summer vacation was well earned. After all that structure, all the focus, all those tests and all that time, summer vacation was a chance to let my hair down and just LIVE. It was a special time that was set aside to throw off the constricting bands of regiment and revel in the beauty of life.

But summer break was more than just a payoff for nine months of goal-oriented action. Summer break also served as a time to rest up and gather strength for the next phase of the vision. (When kids are involved there seems to be a greater sense of sanity; the kind of sanity that leads to the conclusion that measurable annual growth requires a season of rest and recuperation.)

When taking into account the greater goal of high school graduation, summer break was a necessary part of the overall accomplishment of the goal.

Then and Now

Can you see the stark difference between then and now? You went from a world where everything was built around a singular, predetermined purpose, to a world full of choices where, suddenly, no one was telling you what to do. The structure was gone and so was most of the accountability.

When you entered adult life you left a time period that was filled with the validating process of annual graduation and promotion, and quickly realized that promotions come hard, those who validate are few, and graduation of any kind seems much more uncertain.

Additionally, it probably didn’t take you long to figure out that summer break was a thing of the past, and that if you wanted to keep step with the fast pace of life that breaks of any kind were looked down upon and could prove to be costly to your position in the rat race.

So what changed? Oh, not much, just all of that…

Honestly, I don’t think that our human needs change that much with age. I think that what changes as we become adults is our expectations of ourselves. Too bad those expectations are not an accurate picture of reality.

Getting back to the original question… Lacking purpose, structure and accountability will never lead to validation, graduation or promotion of any kind. This causes us to wander through life, jumping from one thing to the next looking for our fulfillment; because of our restless, unfulfilled hearts, prescribed breaks are simply not an option because to rest is to lose progress in our search. …is it any wonder that life seems to move faster after you enter into adulthood?

If you find yourself in this spot, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I have a clear (God’s) vision for my life? The Bible clearly states that you were created with a specific and unique purpose for your life that no one else can accomplish. What is God’s transcendent vision for your life? Do you know God’s purpose for your creation? You were not an accident. God had a reason for putting you here on the earth. If you’re unsure of your purpose, intentionally spend time asking God to reveal it to you. Make it a priority to find out your purpose and pursue it with childlike faith.
  2. Am I pursing God’s vision for my life towards the next graduation point? While sometimes God reveals to us the big picture, He rarely allows us to accomplish the whole thing in one giant step; He leads us progressively toward the goal in bite-size increments. Do you know where the next milestone is in the God-given vision for your life? Has discouragement, stagnation, or wandering affected your progress toward the next graduation point? Are you engaging in celebration when you arrive at each milestone?
  3. Am I allowing myself prescribed rests as God leads me from season to season? God authored the Sabbath. Jesus often retreated for rest. Our heavenly Father understands the necessity of prescribed breaks. Are you allowing society’s pressure for endless production and performance to hinder you from taking prescribed breaks? Remember, summer break is twofold: a payoff for hard work and accomplishment, and a time to recoup for the times that lie ahead. Don’t cheat yourself.

So will understanding your vision and pursuing it from graduation point to graduation point slow down your perception of time? Maybe. Maybe not. What it will do is allow you to leave behind everything that’s less than great, and focus on the things that really matter. It will result in less time spent wandering, less time wasted, more graduation and God validation, which leads to fulfillment in life.

Oh, and the occasional moment when you can just throw your head back and yell,


With Faith,

Nathan Thompson

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