At some undetermined point in life once I was out of college I realized that I was perpetually in limbo. Over the years, this had become my mental state of choice. It was fueled by ambition and the desire to make a better life for myself. In high school I was in limbo until I could get out on my own and not have to answer to any adults. In fact, my fierce sense of independence made me wish my childhood away. I couldn’t wait to be to the point where I could control my own destiny. I always felt like an adult in a kid’s body, waiting for my body to catch up to my desired state. It was goal after goal and I was in limbo time after time until I could get to that next milestone. Once I’m fixated on a goal, it’s sometimes hard to focus on anything else til it’s met.
In college, I also worked a lot. I was in limbo until I could graduate and get a good paying job. I remember that I always felt like I could never afford the time or money to do anything fun. The few times I did let loose were the times I still remember. I remember a winter trip to a friend’s cabin, a day trip to block island or a couple of great camping trips with another outdoorsy buddy of mine. I recall at one point I was fed up with having no social life so I decided that even though I was exhausted after my double shift, I’d head out to a bar with one of the waiters after work for the last hour they were open so I’d have some semblance of a life. It did help.
Life is Happening all Around You
The fact is, that although it would be unsustainable to pull that kind of schedule indefinitely, I was living life all along. There was life to be had in those study groups or in that lab where our equipment would break every time we were in the middle of an experiment. There was life in observing how different people deal with challenges. Some of us just trudge along, while others with hot tempers would throw their hard hat across the room. I also got a big dose of my social needs met during my waitress shifts where I knew my regular customers by name. If I hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t have met a body guard for the dalai lama, or found out how and why a person would become an undertaker for a living, or got my tutoring gig.
I am so much like my mom. Babci tried to immigrate to America for 20 years before she finally got awarded her visa to leave. She would apply ever year and every year she would get rejected. She did not get married or date or do anything that would jeopardize her chances to leave. She was fixated on that goal and she’d wait her whole life before changing it. As a result, Babci got a very late start in life. It didn’t change for the better until she was in her 60’s. That’s sure a long time to wait to start living.
For many years, it was just about getting through the day for her. I think some of the happiest days for her was when I was little. When I was 16, I started frequenting a local fabric store and the women who ran it recognized me as the little girl my mom brought in with them. They recalled in painstaking detail all the little outfits my mom used to sew for me. I wish I had pictures of them. One of the ladies had a favorite outfit that she described to me. It was a red wool and black velvet winter coat with a matching hat and gloves. They said I was always dressed to the nines as a toddler. (At some point she started dressing me like a boy..short hair and boy clothes…probably out of practicality. That stunk. I wish she could have kept me in cute dresses for a lot longer. It would have made childhood 1000x easier). Babci still recalls those days of holding my little hand walking down the street to the market and wondering how on earth she’s going to be able to raise me to an adult at her age. Fast forward 30 years and not only was she able to raise me, but now she has little grandchildren to bring her joy again.
Maybe it was having children that opened my eyes to living rather than waiting for that next milestone to occur. Even now I have to stop saying things like “I can’t wait til my little one is potty trained.” He is so adorable right now, why wish it away? Thank god for my husband who reminds me on a regular basis that work and projects will still be there tomorrow because I still think I would be out there killing myself to get ahead if it weren’t for him. I would never get to that point of “enough” and totally miss out on living in the process. It also scares me how fast time flies these days. A year goes by in the blink of an eye it seems and I’m so afraid of missing it as it’s whizzing by.
So the next time you find yourself saying I can’t wait til:
- I graduate high school
- I get a job
- I Pay off my debts
- I Get a new job
- I lose that weight
- I find Mr. or Mrs. Right
- I save up for a house
- I pay off my house
- I fix up my house
- the kids are out of diapers
- I save for college
- the kids are out of the house
- I can retire
Ask yourself, are you wishing your life away? Everyone says life goes by in a flash and before you know it, you’re dead. Don’t keep wishing away those precious little moments in life…live it. Schedule in some fun, be present, unplug, smell the roses, recharge. You know what you need to do. Even if you have precious little time, sometimes it’s worth sacrificing a little sleep to get your needs met. It’s great to have goals for the future, but don’t forget to be living in the present in the mean time.
How do you balance current living with future goals? What is your M.O.?