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QUINTESSENCE

21 to Enter

"Puppy," my favorite stuffy

No Exit.
Must be 21 to Enter.
- sign on a door


Adulthood, the final frontier. We can hardly wait as kids to be teenagers and as teens to have all the rights and privileges of adults. We open our first champagne. But to our surprise, life, as my daughter tells me, is revealed not to be an endless "spring break" as imagined, but "haaaard," she sighs.

No kidding, kid. The sign on the door says it all. Must be 21 to enter. And once you do, no exit. "Wallow in it," I used to say to the kids. "Don't grow up so fast, you'll miss these years later." Life is complicated. A challenge. Adulthood will engage all the skills we bring to it. I could sum aspects of my own adulthood as one constant struggle to simplify the struggle: to find the ease. To identify Joseph Campbell's elusive "bliss" and surf within it. What I discovered is that we can in fact simplify the obligations and busyness, chill the stress, unknot a number of tangled threads. Life can be gentled. Lived in manageable, meaningful bite-sized experiences. The ingredients of successful living can be boiled down to essential goodness in the most important elements: family, work, friends, faith, health. Five ingredients that demand all the attention we can give them. Anything - at anytime - can go wrong in life. The curve balls are relentlessly unpredictable and come at us fast. My daughter's big sigh admitting adulthood feels hard, reflected her awareness she was catching her own fast balls now. Adulthood says "suit up and play." We stand on our own merits, and survive on our wits. Who doesn't feel unprepared?

Not surprisingly, we talk a lot - my friends, my kids and I. About work, family, those basic elemental blocks of life. The goal is not to reduce our daily lives to a master check list and a punch clock, to sieve the spontaneous richness out of what is essentially the adventure of all adventures, but to ensure we've addressed the fundamentals. Combine well the basic five ingredients. Sprinkle on the spice. Perhaps adulthood can be less struggle in the making and more joy.
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