We spend most of our early adulthood preparing and eagerly anticipating the next step. We get good grades and take the SAT to prepare for college. We go to college to prepare for our careers and eventually provide for our families. We date to find our spouse. We marry to become a family. We have children to grow our family. We save for our first home. We move in.
But what happens then? What happens once we have the jobs and the cars and the house and the kid(s) and when we stop being so preoccupied with the next step that we are left in the middle of the lives we carefully planned for ourselves... now what?
I think that's the challenge of being 32.
I realize not everyone follows the same path, some do it earlier or later - but eventually, I think many of us hit this point - whether it's at 32 or 52 or 72, the point where you have to look long and hard at the life you worked to set up and LIVE it.
I've spent so much time constantly running at 90 miles an hour preparing for what's next that I don't know how to enjoy what's here. How many of us do that?
I read a quote (and I'm bummed because I can't seem to find where I read it for the life of me) that said something like, "One day, you'll look back on this time and realize THESE were the days of your life. These were the good old days." Just thinking about that brings tears to my eyes. I am so used to trying to find the next thing to strive for, I still seek to do it. I am constantly missing the present in searching for my next step.
When my son was a baby, I yearned for a full night's sleep. When he was a toddler, I kept hoping for the days he could fully communicate why he was upset. When he was in preschool, I looked forward to his "real" school days and walking him to the elementary school down the street. On the weekends, I'm working on the house, the shopping list, projects, my business so that later I can "really" relax and enjoy spending time with my family. But, how many weekends will that take? How many months? Years? Decades? When will later be now?
Last weekend, I decided it was later. I did what needed to be done on Saturday, but then the hubby, kiddo and I piled into the car and drove two and a half hours to the coast. We ate fish and chips in Morro Bay, we visited the Shell Shop and fed sea lions. We beach combed and hiked around. We sat and soaked in the sun and sea and air. For once I didn't stress about what time we'd leave on our trip or what time we'd get back. What I'd make for dinner. We just went.
And, it was amazing.
I refuse to look back and realize I squandered the best days of our lives worrying about the rest of the days.