For Sarah on her 26th birthday.
Interesting isn’t it? How do you watch something that doesn’t exist? You can’t touch it or feel it, yet it rules your life. At first, you only had to make the kindergarten bus and now you struggle to get to work as the door opens. Where did it all go?
It’s easy for me. My life is nearly completed. I can look back with a smile or a grimace at those events that happened over the years and wonder, but not you. In your 20s, you don’t have the luxury to look back. Every day is packed. There are only rare opportunities to breathe. You are overwhelmed with what the children did today or how difficult it was at work. You are consumed with the opening of school in a few months, the Christmas play after that, and getting your next promotion. It is natural, but you will regret it.
In what seems like a heartbeat, you will go from diapers to driving lessons and you won’t know what happened. One day you’ll be crying at the bus stop when your children go off to school for the first time. Then, without any warning you’ll be crying when you take their picture in that beautiful prom dress and watch them drive off with someone you don’t really know. You’ll one day hear the beginner’s scratching of that well used instrument and then have tickets to the Beethoven concert, your child playing First Violin. You were there, you lived through it, but you didn’t really experience it. You will regret it, but not today.
Today you need to think about your happy life. Today you need to wonder if you will have enough for the children to attend college. Today you will have experienced nothing of the most important events in your life. Because today is just like yesterday with lunches to make, shopping to do, and skinned knees that require a little Bactine and a kiss. Today you had a smooth day at work and children that behaved; tomorrow you will wonder why every day can’t be like yesterday. You were there, but you noticed very little, and you remembered nothing. Your excuse is that there isn’t time. Yes, I know, there never is.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” That’s a cute expression, but youth is right where it needs to be. You need the energy and enthusiasm of your youth to cope with raising young children, caring for your spouse, and dealing with issues at work. You need the health of your youth to care for your family when they need you. What you lack is the wisdom to know how very lucky you are. You are living in a Garden of Eden that only improves with every day. I can only tell you stories about how life used to be, but nothing about how it will be. Just like baseball, if you knew the outcome, you wouldn’t play the game.
Every day you make decisions. They are based on what you have been taught and what little you have experienced in your young life. You have already made decisions on your own about college, love, marriage, children, and career. Today those decisions look pretty good, but tomorrow will show the consequences of each decision. Later you can look at the circumstances surrounding each decision. For now, you can only make the best informed and well thought out decision each time. These are the times when your well-rounded education will help you each day. My Dad often told me, “You only need to be right 51% of the time to have a successful life.” Perhaps he was not required to take statistics in college. I knew what he meant. He knew that he had made some mistakes in his life, but he felt that the good decisions outweighed the bad ones and that was why he felt he had a successful life.
More to the point though, how do you know you’re right? Sometimes being right is a moving target and what is right for one person is very wrong for someone else. Sometimes there are degrees of right. Do you buy that new wardrobe with all the latest styles or do you take the kids to Disneyland? Do you continue to amass your fortune or do you recognize those less fortunate than you? Do you pay the mortgage or do you buy food? In most cases, the degree of correctness will not be evident until it is too late. That’s just the nature of things.
For now though, enjoy what you’re doing. Relish in the experiences with your spouse and your children. Take lots of pictures and record your thoughts as you go. It will help you sort out your thoughts and show you a clearer path forward. Yesterday is gone. There are no do-overs. In forty years, when you are sitting on your porch, you will want those memories that seem so faint. You will wish you had paid more attention, you will regret some things that you’ve done, but I believe you will smile knowing that you had a good life. I will be long gone by then, but I’ll still be on the porch with you. We can laugh, and remember how we danced together at Christmas every year.
Happy Birthday Cutie.
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