Have you ever heard the phrase, life is a journey? I’ve had that told to me time and time again. Everyone always told me while growing up to “enjoy the journey.” Take it all in. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t miss a beat. Truth be told, I didn’t understand what these people were saying and it took me a while to realize all these people were right.
You see, I’ve always been waiting. Waiting for my life to begin. I’ve had this mind set of waiting since Jr. High. I can recall being a seventh grader and thinking to myself, “life will begin when I’m in high school.” I don’t even think I understood what I was waiting for? What was I thinking was going to happen to me? Would I suddenly start to fit in? Would the acne go away? My hair instantly look perfect every morning? I don’t know what I thought would happen…
When my senior year drew to an end, I can vividly remember thinking, “finally high school is over, now time for the real stuff. Now I go to college and life happens there!” I wasted all of high school waiting for college, only to realize that I should have enjoyed it. I should have enjoyed those moments living at home with my siblings and parents. I should have taken in the fleeting memories of cheerleading, show choir, and golf. I should have never taken for granted the simplicity of life back then. All these life experiences that I thought would never end. Finally did.
And then, before you know it, it all changes.
Your biggest worry isn’t who you’ll sit by during lunch or what you’re going to wear to the homecoming dance. Suddenly, in what seems like a blink of an eye, you have to worry about paying the utilities bill, figuring out what the heck escrow is, and realizing that money doesn’t grow on trees; you can either buy groceries or clothes, but never both. Life will never be as simple and easy as it was back then. But I didn’t seem to realize that.
College came and went and I, once again, found myself thinking, “Life starts when I get married.” So I didn’t take the time to enjoy being a freshman in college. I didn’t take a moment to look around and really take in my college campus, my professors, my classmates. I didn’t take the time to capture mental images of my first apartment with friends, the first time we stayed out all night just to realize we had 8 am class the next day…all those firsts, I rushed through, just waiting for the next “big thing” to happen to me. You know what never dawned on me as a 19-year-old? That I’m never going to be 19 again. That I’m never going to live these “firsts” again. I wish I would’ve thought of that.
Then I did get married. And life changed, but it didn’t seem to start like I thought it would. I guess I thought that by now, I’d know just who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. But you know what my mind feels instead, “you just need to start having kids. Then life will begin.”
It’s an ongoing cycle. This need for something else. This aching for life to settle into a rhythm. For a routine to begin. For the transition from childhood to adulthood to feel complete.
But you know what haunts me the most about this absurd way of thinking I caught myself in? I forgot to remember. I forgot to remember that first day of high school. The fear I surely felt. The excitement that brewed inside. That feeling of new-ness. And then I forgot to remember those high school football games on Friday nights, the laughs we shared at Pizza Hut after the game, the feeling of friendship I felt when we had sleepovers and stayed up all night talking. The feeling of first loves and heartbreaks. I forgot to remember the craziness of moving to college. The last few nights spent in my childhood home & the first few nights spent in a tiny, smelly dorm room. I’m sure I felt scared and lonely. But I also probably felt independent and happy. I didn’t realize that life was happening all around me. The late nights up studying, the tests I almost didn’t pass because a Sex in the City marathon with my roommates seemed more important, the college parties, the Husker football games, the feeling of belonging to something bigger than yourself- that was life. It was always happening. And I missed it because I was too busy waiting.
I can’t go back and re-do all those moments in my life. As much as I would love to pause and rewind, that’s just not the way it seems to work. But life goes on and you better bet that I’m not waiting around anymore. This is life. It’s happening. Right here and right now. And I’m going to be a part of it.
Finally, I understand what those people way back when said to me. Life is a journey. From first breath to last. Enjoy it. Take it all in.