If Life Is a Highway...
|Photo from http://michelechastain.blogspot.com|
As I headed towards the end of my thirties I had a friend tell me how awesome my forties were going to be. She said something to the effect of, "It's when it all comes together. You'll see." And with that, I kind of wished away 38 and 39 to get there. To rush the moment of WOW. The moment when the windshield cleared.
There weren't any flashing lights, or fireworks, or a parade but, it definitely happened. You suddenly understand your life in a way that you just couldn't comprehend when you were twenty-something. And you struggle to explain it to people, especially younger people, because it isn't their fault how far they are from this place. They can be the smartest person in the room -- heck, the smartest person in the world -- and still, nothing can replace the wisdom that comes with age.
I think you can only appreciate your life in retrospect. You can read books, and blogs, and watch all the TED Talks that you want. You can make a note to appreciate the moments, to not take things for granted, to love every second of every day. But you'll forget. Or you'll get distracted replacing the roll of toilet paper or loading the dishwasher. Every moment isn't magical and the mundane has a way of dulling your senses.
Every spring, I have the same epiphany. I will walk more, eat less, do more yoga, drink less wine. I will write more, get out of the house more, do more. If I look backwards at my life, I have done some of those things some of the time.
Life is like middle school in that you can't appreciate the lessons you learned or the pain you endured until you are WAY past high school. You can't relish the small bully victories, or the boy crushes, or the wild slumber parties for the character-building moments that they were. You can't separate the pain of your first unrequited crush, your first ex-BFF, your first failure, from the big "AHA" moments they each contained until you have finished building your character. And that doesn't happen in your teens. Or your twenties. Or even your thirties. It's just starting to be obvious to me now the kind of person I have always been trying to be is still far from finished.
This doesn't mean that you aren't someone important until your forty. Plenty of people rise to greatness at an early age. What I mean is that you won't fully appreciate it, until you can look far enough back at it and see it for what it was. What each career milestone, or life moment represents on your path.
If every moment from the beginning of your life to the end is laid out like a highway, the path is rarely straight. There are often unexpected detours, and places where the roadway is worn or the pavement is cracked. Moments when people came in and out of your life, where you felt love, loss, joy, success. Bottlenecks and traffic jams, and a few wrecks along the way. So much perspective. Every mile earned.
For all of the invention in this world, you can't pre-pay for perspicacity.
[It's okay, you can Google it. I'll wait.]
So, if I seem to agree now, when you know I really don't, or I seem less combative and more complacent, it's not that you're right. Or, even that I am right. It's more likely that, in the end, it doesn't really matter. The world will not hang in the balance of this particular decision. And while I used to fight to the death over every petty little thing, now I know the difference.
Don't worry, you'll get there.