Wherever you are, be all there. - Jim Elliot
Lately, I've found myself embracing exactly who I am and making no apologies for who and what that is. I think when you go through hard patches in life and you are open about them (okay so I was sorta forced to be open), you find this wonderful freedom. You start to see yourself in a different light. One day you look into the mirror and you realize, I don't have to be the "victim" in my life. I'm not just going to let life "happen" to me.
I say all of this because the other day I was reflecting on how great my thirties have been. Yes, the dirty thirties come along with a lot of not-so-fun stuff like a slower metabolism, a few gray hairs, and the start of wrinkles. But, then also, it's one of the first times in my life when I've found myself able to be completely present in the moment. Do you know what I mean by that?
As a kid, I wanted nothing more than to be bigger, older, and more self sufficient. I wanted to hurry up and grow up! Then in high school, I longed for college where I could live on my own, stay out as late as I wanted, and finally get to escape the exhausting high school drama. But in college, I couldn't wait to finally earn my own money and live alone and be a "grown up".
In my twenties, I was sick of that awkward in-between stage. Half of my friends were married, while the other half were still partying like it was 1999. Some began starting families and I hadn't even met my one and only. At family gatherings, I always had to sleep on the floor and hold the family cat in group photos because I was "the single one." I looked forward to marriage and settling down with my best friend. Then once I was married, I found myself already longing to become a mommy and just wanted to fast forward through our struggles to become parents.
After hearing all of this, you might think, "so were you ever content? Were you ever happy?" And the answer to that is yes. I was actually always pretty happy, even during my struggles. But, do I think I missed out on truly enjoying and absorbing the wonder in each stage? Yes. And that's why I'm so grateful for my thirties because I'm finally in a place where I'm starting to realize that the "hurry up" and "let's just get through this" thinking is a mistake. I take one look at my little baby that has become a little girl over night, already telling me what she wants for dinner and which shoes she wants to wear, and I think to myself, "how did this happen so fast?" I was exiting those hospital doors to take her home just yesterday it seems. When did life start speeding by like this?
And the truth is, it was always speeding by and it will never stop. You may have many years ahead of you or only days and nobody really knows the answer to that. That goes for your most treasured loved ones as well. So, stop treading water in hopes that the time will quickly pass and then you can finally live. Live now. Live even if you are hurting, if you're going through a rough patch, or if you're at an "in-between" stage in life, because this life is a train on a one-way track. You know what I'm saying? You can't hit reverse and you will never go back. Make it count and stop wishing these moments away.
I look at family Christmas photos from my twenties and see myself sheepishly holding the family cat, perched next to my sister and her husband, along with my proud parents and grandparents and I think to myself, "why was I in such a hurry?" That was a great time in life and I had all the freedom in the world, but I never really stopped to smell the roses. I was just busy "getting to the next phase in life" and blink...here I am. But that cat is no longer here, and neither are those grandparents. In fact, that house has been sold and I haven't seen the inside of it in years.Why didn't I stop and smell the roses more?
No phase in life is perfect and you will always miss certain things about past phases, but you can never go back. All you can do is go forward from this day and make an effort to be present. Be here. Enjoy this. Find those things that you are grateful for and hold on tight. Tell those people that mean the world to you that you love them, now! Because in only a handful of days, today will be your past and you can't go back.
I used to love the quote "Don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle." But you know what? I don't like that quote anymore because it insinuates that you will eventually "catch up" or have a similar "middle". Maybe you won't. And that's okay too. There's not one acceptable way to live this life, so stop comparing and don't compete. It's not a competition. Not even with yourself. Love yourself and encourage yourself. Strive to be the best version of you that you can be, but it's not a competition and at the end of this thing, there is no medal. No prize. Ultimately, you have to look in the mirror at yourself and what you've become every single day for as long as you stick around, so make it worth your while. Be proud of what you see. And be present. Today. And if tomorrow comes, be present then too because you can't go back. Make it count.
How do you remind yourself to be present?