Reflections on time, priorities and what we are all doing here
My mom got her real estate licence at the age of 55. (Prior to this, she and my dad owned a business and self published two books.) At a time when many people are planning and looking forward to retirement, she was planning on starting a new career.
She thought, It’s time to learn a new skill.
I thought, What’s the point?
A few years before this, a friend passed away after a motorcycle accident at the age of 26. (In the limited amount of time that I knew him, he lived a busy life, one filled with praise-worthy academic achievement, job offers right out of university and lots of friends.) At a time when many people are planning for the next party and looking forward to their future milestones – marriage, children, a house – he was being remembered for what could have been.
I thought about his death and wondered, What was the point?
That simple question – What’s the point? – can be sarcastic or a sign of resignation. And, it’s rhetorical in spirit.
13 years have passed since my mom sold her first of many houses and evidently I was wrong. There is, in fact, an answer.
There is a point.
Perspective and Priorities
Unfortunately, we often miss the point because we feel pressured – mostly by our limited time and our limited money – to figure out the most logical path to take or the most efficient option to choose. We strategize and analyze before acting on any idea because we want to ensure that we fill our time with practical and sensible activities. But is this attitude actually beneficial to us? Could we be missing out on the most precious moments of our lives, simply because we are trying to be “smart” with our time and money.
Take for example, my wedding day. I have fond memories – Yellow lilies and red roses. A handsome groom in a tartan kilt. Dancing to “My Girl,” with my dad. Rum cake. 350 family and friends. Lots of laughter. Lots of love. But, when a former co-worker asked me why we spent so much money on just one day, I felt defensive…and guilty. Since then, I’ve come to realize that everyone has their own priorities. And, if our actions or our decisions were made with good intentions, justification isn’t necessary.
Generally, when we are our most productive selves, we don’t like to waste time or to do things that are meaningless. And that’s the reason my husband and I disagree about the kids’ extra-curricular activities.
- I think the kids should continue going to Mandarin-language classes because it may create opportunities in the future. He agrees, but wonders how proficient they will even become. What’s the point? …if we don’t speak the language.
- He believes that having the kids grow up playing hockey is important. That’s cool, but I consider more than two days a week of hockey excessive. What’s the point? They’re not making it to the NHL.
- The kids? They just want to spend time with their grandparents, cousins and friends. Cake and juice boxes? Instant party! #RealPriorities
Goal setting and timelines are great tools. In fact, I get really excited when writing up a detailed “plan of action.” When it comes to the reality of our lives, however, the perfection of executing our list of life goals “on time” isn’t as easy and the check boxes are sometimes left empty, unfulfilled. The comforting thing, well if you view it that way, is that we will all get to the end, just not in the same manner or at the same speed. But hey! What if we didn’t focus on time? Would we be happier? What if we chose to evaluate our lives based on the quality of our days, rather than on the time that has passed?
“There’s no present like the time” ~ The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2
Every year my family goes camping and we spend five days among the trees. This is the usual itinerary for the first day:
8:30 am – Leave city
11:30 am – Stop at service station for lunch, gas and washroom
2:30 pm – Arrive at site. Set up campsite, tent, etc.
4:30 pm – Kids: running around. Husband: fiddling with fishing rod. Me: looking around and asking, what do I do now?
After three years of going camping, I now realize that I can’t just sit in protective wrapping and wait for it to be over (Read: about my fear of bugs). The point of going camping is to simply: Enjoy it! I can either make the most of my time there or waste a truly awesome experience – for my family, for my kids and for myself. And, when I ask, “So, should we start getting dinner ready?” the answer is always, “Sure, but it can wait.” Schedules aren’t rigid in the forest.
The Quality of Your Life
I don’t know if there was necessarily a reason for his early death. But what I do know, for sure, is that my friend’s life had great meaning – to his family, to his friends and to those who receive a scholarship in his name every year. He often boasted that he only needed five hours of sleep each night. And even though that’s not difficult at 26 years of age, I think it was more than his youth that gave him his energizing spirit. He had an exceptional desire to do and to excel at as much as he could, while still making time for his friends and family. In essence, I’d say, he “celebrated” his life. With every goal he fulfilled and with every friendship he carefully fostered, he was in effect, showing gratitude for his life. And, that is what I think we are here to do. That’s the point.
A know-it-all, until I didn’t know it all
I was 30 years old when my mom got her real estate licence. At that age I thought I knew everything. I had grown up and experienced so much since I was 20. And then all of a sudden I hit 40 and discovered I actually didn’t know anything at all.
Up until I got married and had children, I think I lived my life a bit like Forest Gump, simply floating around and letting things happen. Of course, I had made decisions and fulfilled goals, but I didn’t have the complete understanding that there is an end and that my time here has great meaning. And so, I now look at life – the time that we are here – as a precious opportunity to joyfully do the things that honour my talents; to fulfill my own unique purpose.
No longer will I simply do what I think others want me to do. I will live with intention. And, I will no longer ask, What’s the point? Instead, I will ask:
Am I living a genuine life?
Am I treating people with respect?
How can I deepen my relationships?
Am I sharing my creativity?
Am I taking care of my soul?
Can I afford to “squander” my time to satisfy a dream?
Can I afford not to?