What is it about December that brings out the contemplative part of us? That makes us look back on our lives with sadness, longing and sometimes regrets? That makes us wonder about our future with fear, excitement, and hope?
My big family Christmas party was this past Saturday. I always look forward to seeing aunts, uncles, and cousins I haven’t seen in ages. As a rule, we all live such busy lives I feel lucky to see them twice a year – at this party and our family reunion in August.
Every time we get together though, I see changes. A few more gray hairs, a few more laugh lines. Children who seem to have grown a foot since the last time I saw them. And I can’t help but think that all of the ‘kids’ from my generation are the ages when we thought our parents were old (we thought they were old at thirty).
From little league, tree houses, Barbie dolls, bicycles, and Girl Scouts, to college graduates, business owners, computer technicians, truck drivers, factory workers, office staff…and mothers and fathers! So many changes – and they seem to have happened overnight.
It wasn’t that long ago when we were all chomping at the bit to grow up. When all we wanted was to be an adult so no one could tell us what to do. Ha! How little we knew then.
We didn’t know how much we’d miss three month-long vacations, and chasing the ice cream truck down in the summer. How much fun it was to rake leaves into piles and then jump into them (okay, so we knew, but it was worth it). We didn’t have a clue about budgets, and taxes, and the cost of living. Or about what responsibility really means.
We thought we were invincible. That we – and everyone we loved – would always be here because the fact that birth is a death sentence never occurred to us.
Yes, I love this song (and I think John Ondrasik is really sexy in this video). I know I use it every time I start reflecting on the passage of time…but it’s the only one I think adequately expresses how short our lives really are.
Sometimes I think about books and movies where the main character goes back in time, or wakes up and they’re a kid again. The possibilities of what could happen boggle the mind.
Would I turn back the clock if I could? Go back to fifteen years old again? I don’t know. Maybe…but only if I could take all of the knowledge I’ve accumulated back with me.
I’d make many of the same choices for sure, but there are things I’d do differently. Roads I’d have traveled that didn’t seem important at the time, others I’d avoid like the plague. Because there are things about my life that I love, I’d make some of the exact same mistakes again. But not all of them. Like most people, there are many things I wish I’d done differently. So much wasted time, too many wasted opportunities. Wasted moments, days, and years I can never get back.
Unfortunately, there is no Doc Brown with a time-traveling Delorean. And even if there was, the best I could do is go back and talk to my stupid, know-it-all fifteen-year-old self…and hope she listened.
Of course if the younger Kristy did listen, who knows what one small change could do to my future. I could be stuck washing dishes in some icky restaurant forever. Or I could be the president of a company that makes thingamajigs. Instead of doing what I love most, writing, I could be doing something I hate because I stepped off the course I’ve followed all my life.
So even if some genius did figure out a way to actually do it, I doubt I’d make the trip. The best thing I’ve ever done is to have my kids, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I might, however, go back long enough to try to save the lives of some of the people I love.
Yeah, I know. A silly waste of time to even think about…but sometimes the pondering the impossible is fun way to pass the time.
Now it’s time to think about reality though. All I have is today, and hopefully many, many tomorrows – and I need to do whatever it takes to make the rest of my life the best it can be. Then, when the time comes, I can look back and know I did good. That I made the best choices I knew to make and ran a worthy race.
Still, I can’t help but wonder what might be different about my life if I’d known then what I know now.