“When you’re in your 20s, you think you’ve got all the time in the world. You get older, and you go through a quickening. Everything seems to get faster.” Colin Hay, singer/songwriter
When I read this quote it stopped me in my tracks. Not because it was shocking or I hadn’t thought of it, but rather because it was so spot on. Life just accelerates, one year to the next.
If you’re a parent, I guarantee at some point you were told, after you had the audacity to complain about lack of sleep due to your bundle-of-joy newborn, “Enjoy it! It goes by in a flash!” To which you likely (hopefully?) controlled the urge to slap said person across the mouth, smiled and went on about your sleep-deprived day. And yet, if you’re like me, suddenly you’re in your 40’s, your kids are teenagers, and you’re trying to figure out why you’re still writing “2012” on checks instead of 2022 and why there are gray flecks in your hair. They were right:
So yeah, that Colin Hay quote resonates with me. A quickening…I get that. Everything goes faster: time, money, seasons…they’re all just racing by.
I was talking to a friend about it and he said it’s all about percentages. When you’re young, say 10 years old, the next 10 years seem like an eternity because, percentage-wise, they’re literally half your life. Now add on some years and hit 40, and those same 10 years, one decade, becomes just a quarter of your life. 50? It’s just a fifth. By then, a year is a small fraction of your life-lived, and it seems like they just keep going faster…because…well, they do.
So what, then, shall we do? Seize the day? Carpe Diem! Try to live your best life now? Make a bucket list? Maybe. Why not? I do think there should be a very real impetus to check yourself, to ask if what you’re doing with your days, months, and years is worth-while. Are the sums of your hours just dollars? Are you content with where you are? How’s your marriage? Your kids? When’s the last time you experienced true joy in anything?
We’re in the middle of what’s being billed as “The Great Resignation.” Massive numbers of people are quitting their job to find new careers. I’m sure the social scientists will be delving into the reasons behind this for years to come, but I’d wager there are two main drivers: money, and quality of life. 2020 made us all sit up and take stock, even if for only a moment, of what really matters. Some folks realized they were killing themselves at a job that didn’t pay them enough, and they made a change. Others just realized they could seize and opportunity to capitalize on their worth in the marketplace. And still othersrealized that what they were chasing really didn’t matter in the face of a pandemic and the brevity of life.
Me? I’d be lying if all of that didn’t play a role in my family leaving Oklahoma and moving back to NC: the desire to be close to our parents, to have our kids be able to see their grandparents regularly, to be back “home.” That may seem trite, but it’s true: NC is a part of us. It just is. As much as we loved our time in Oklahoma, it was time to go.
Five years ago I left a career I loved because it was killing me and my family and moved across country to start over. Now, edging ever-closer to my 50’s, back in the place we believe we belong, I find myself asking “What do I want to DO?” Or maybe, more accurately, “WHO do I want to BE?” I’ve got an inkling I’m not alone in this.
We all have to make a living, a way to provide somehow, but are we chasing a dream, an Instagrammer’s mirage? What things really matter to you? Where is the balance? For your family? None of us know how many days we have left. We say that all the time, but then quickly tuck it away because nobody really wants to think about the truth behind it. Yet I feel it almost constantly: is how I’m spending my time wise?
This passage from David Brooks wonderful The Second Mountain stirs something in me as I think about these things:
“Most of us get better at living as we go. There comes a moment, which may come early or later in life, when you realize what your life is actually about. You look across your life and review the moments when you felt more fully alive, at most your best self. They were usually moments when you were working with others in service of some ideal. That is the agency moment. That is the moment when you achieve clarity about what you should do and how you should live. That is the moment when the ego loses its grip. There is a sudden burst of energy that comes with freedom from the self-centered ego. Life becomes more driven and more gift. That is the moment when a life comes to a point.”David Brooks, The Second Mountain
I don’t think I’m alone when I say I want my life to count. I want to use the time I’m given wisely. I’m sure you do, too. This leads to questions, if we’re brave enough to ask them:
1. Is the current trajectory of your life leading you where you want to go?
2. If not, what tweaks/changes need to happen?
Because that quickening…it’s coming for us all.