Last night, as I read Tim O’ Brien’s blog reflecting on his life as he approaches his fiftieth birthday, I realized I’d been doing a bit of reflecting myself this past year. Not because of a milestone birthday, but rather the loss of a close family member. Different circumstances, same results.
A quick happy birthday to Tim before I continue. You’re only as young as you feel!
When we’re kids, all we want to do is hurry time along so we can be grown ups. And then when we get there, all we want to do is keep striving toward new goals. The expensive car, new house, fancy furniture, great job, huge bank account. There’s always something that demands our time and attention.
Not that they’re always bad things. I just wonder if, sometimes, our focus shouldn’t be turned elsewhere.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago, about realizing that no matter how many goals I’ve met in my life, reaching them didn’t make me as happy as I thought they would. Not that there wasn’t a sense of accomplishment, the good feelings you get when you’ve worked hard for something and finally see it come to pass.
But happy? Not really.
Because goals too often involve things. Things can make your life easier, and maybe bring some degree of happiness. But it’s fleeting. Too soon we’re focused on the next goal, and the next and next and next.
In present day society it seems to be all the rage to be busy. Constantly. I don’t know about the rest of the world but sleep deprivation is pretty common in the United States. We don’t consider proper rest to be important in light of everything we have to do.
I know I’m guilty of doing exactly that. And that’s part of the reason I’ve spent so much time thinking about my life, to this point. So many unimportant things that I invested so much of myself in, while I neglected the things that really mattered.
And I can’t reclaim that time. I can’t call a time out, say I want a do-over. Those opportunities are gone. All I can do now is refocus my attention.
On the people in my life. I don’t want to look back in five years, or ten or twenty, and still be wishing I’d done some things differently.
Sure, I’ll still have goals I’ll want to try to achieve. I need them. I’ll always need to grow and learn and keep busy. But I’m learning to prioritize. To invest more time in my relationships with my kids, family and friends than I do in the things I want to accomplish.
We only have one chance at this life. And every day that passes can either be something we’ll look back on with a smile…or live with regrets for opportunities that we allowed to pass us by. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m tired of regrets.
This reminds me of a song I heard awhile back. I can take or leave the singer, but the lyrics give me chills when I really listen to the words. It’s about someone who missed out on a lot of his kids growing up years because he was on the road all of the time. You don’t have to travel to not be present in your life. You can be there twenty-four/seven and still not be there.
What about you? Do you have any regrets about the past? Things you wish you’d done? Things you wish you hadn’t made important…because it turned out that they really weren’t?