Although the comment was made more than twenty years ago, I still remember it. It was midweek, probably a Wednesday or Thursday, and I had just made a comment about longing for the weekend. A coworker, JoAnn Luke, who taught kindergarten, gently said, “Amy, don’t wish your life away.”
The words have stuck with me all these years. I find I need them now more than ever. I catch myself wishing for weeks to go by hoping time will end the political unrest; that months will go by and vaccinations will end our need to social distance and allow us to meet together again and enjoy fun things like travel. While I’m wishing time away, what am I missing now?
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.”
I hear young people say they long for high school or college graduation. Thinking about how, once a person enters the stressful workforce, life changes, JoAnn’s advice comes back. “Don’t wish your life away.”
I overheard a young woman tell a friend that she couldn’t wait until the weekend when she’d see her boyfriend, that she was just hanging around waiting until Friday night. I wonder if years from now she’ll look back at this pre-marriage and pre-children time and wish she’d appreciated her lazy, carefree life.
I hear people talk with longing about retirement, even keeping a running count of the days before they can quit. I also know of several people who were unhappy being retired, feeling such a strong loss of purpose in their lives that they asked to get rehired.
With no guarantees that tomorrow will be better, it makes sense to appreciate this moment, this hour, this day, this now.
Oprah Winfrey said, “Living in the present moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift.”
Last week, I told my husband I was planning a celebratory dinner including uncorking champagne to celebrate the launch of my first picture book. But when it came time for dinner and it was just the two of us, I decided to wait. It seemed silly to uncork a whole bottle knowing we’d drink just a little.
The next day life got crazy busy again and the moment was gone. I should have taken the advice of learned people like Wayne Dyer. “Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”
I know in the coming months I’ll falter and say things like, “I wish it was spring and we’ll have gotten vaccinated so we can …” but I’m determined to catch myself and make amends. After all, spending life waiting is a waste. Time passes by quickly enough. Holding off living today for some uncertain future is foolish.
I’m changing my ways and taking JoAnn’s advice. I’m uncorking the champagne tonight.