The world is full of admonitions to make the most of life.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life!
Since childhood, I’ve been very aware of time. I was impatient to grow up, because I had a strong sense that I would like the freedom. (I do.) There were milestones I knew I wanted to reach because I thought they’d help me know what to do next. (They didn’t.)
As an adult, I’ve lived my life always aware of the passing of time in all its wonderful and tragic ways. I’ve watched children grow and grandparents die. Wars and administrations and careers have started and ended, all with varied amounts of success.
I’ve never been bothered by getting older. I entered my 30s with a sense of relief. As a person who is funny, but not particularly fun, my 20s were filled with too much pressure to be doing something fabulous all the time. Everyone else shifted gears with kids and family in their 30s. I threw myself into my career.
After a decade of working, I’d finally found that magical combination of work that I was good at that also did good in the world. That passion made the years race by and sustains me still.
No one on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time in the office.
But my own family didn’t come. After years of trying to find the right guy to start a family with, I came up empty. And then there was a hard, hard time about a decade ago when I knew I would never have kids of my own. The echoes of that still hurt.
It changed my thoughts about marriage. I stopped looking for a husband and started looking for a partner. But that hasn’t been much easier. Men my age were looking to settle down. They were finally ready to begin a family, and I was already past it. We were all ready to begin a new story, yet we weren’t on the same page.
Now I’m in my late 40s, mostly content with the experiences I’ve had and life lived so far. Aging still doesn’t bother me overmuch (except possibly for the alarming noises my joints make).
I can say all this, and yet acknowledge that, in many ways, I’m still waiting for life to begin.
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
I’ve always worried that this sensation, which visits me often, reveals a deep immaturity in me. Everyone else is out there getting on with their lives. What am I waiting for exactly? After all, I’m likely well past the half-way point in this life. It would seem like life should have begun by now, right?
Most women waste half their lives waiting for permission.
— Sister Joel Read
But now I think differently. Waiting to begin is something that will come up over and over in our lives
Whether it’s the changing landscape of a new season, the fresh-notebook hopefulness of a new school year, or the sense that you’re finally ready to let one thing go and reach for another, we begin again and again throughout our lives.
While I suppose there are shadow sides to this – the person who is always running from thing to thing and never committing for example – I think it’s probably pretty normal. We may choose it or circumstances may choose it for us, but we will have to change. We will have to begin again, and sometimes we will have to await that change for a while: a bit anxious and a bit excited and a lot unsure about what’s next.
I think everybody feels this anticipation, but I don’t know that we all act on it. Maybe we are in a time of life when we simply need to stay put and not heed the call. Maybe sometimes we’re just too scared or too tired to begin again.
I no longer dread this feeling. When I start wondering “when is my life going to begin?” I know that I’m ready to grow, to tackle something new, to shed skin that no longer fits.
Even if I don’t know how exactly I’m going to pull it off.
It’s exciting to me that at this point I still want to begin life anew, to try new things, to break old habits and build new futures. And it’s exciting to me that everyone, every last one of us, can do this too, at any time and in ways large and small.
This is the genius of our species: we can imagine different ways of being.
And our tragedy is that we don’t have the courage of those dreams.
What are you waiting for?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
— Mary Oliver
Picture taken by me with a Nikon D3400 on a glorious October afternoon.