My Next 30 Years

I think I'll take a moment, celebrate my age 
The ending of an era and the turning of a page 
Now it's time to focus in on where I go from here 
Lord, have mercy on my next thirty years 
-Tim McGraw "My Next Thirty Years"

 I've had a number of milestones over the past couple of years, and thought I'd spend a little time reflecting back and looking forward.

My 30th birthday hit me pretty hard. I was still in the newly in the throes of motherhood, and learning that there is never a day off or vacation from that role. All I asked for was to be able to take a nap, and if memory serves, I did not get it. I had also started back to work at a sort-of new job. No one remembered it was my birthday. Other stuff going on as well, I can't really remember. I did reflect personally, but didn't get around to making a more public reflection. I think I'm ready for that now.

In many ways, I feel like I have spent 30 years just finally getting my life started. I spent the majority of those years in school and college, which was a fairly direct route since I didn't change majors or anything. I got married. I moved all over (something like 7 places in 7 years?) and worked all over and got to live in a big city for awhile. We bought a house. I found out what kind of work I like to do, and where I wanted to be, and made it through "my year of patience" to finally get the job. We got a supportive church family and some stable friendships. We had a beautiful baby and really became a family.

After taking my job and going through all the orientation, I started thinking about the next 30 years. My husband started talking about when I have put in 30 years with the schools that I'll be fully vested and at the top of my pay grade. It is weird to think about working for the length of time that you've been alive. It can feel more like a life sentence that way, I wouldn't recommend it. Looking in that way, it's as if I spent 30 years preparing, 30 years working, and then I would have less than 30 years of actual living, not beholden to anyone else.

Obviously, you live everyday. You live for the journey, not the destination. You find your daily rewards and enjoy everything you can. There's no point in worrying too far ahead about 30 or 60 years down the road when you might get hit by a bus tomorrow.

My dad used to say that you have to be able to keep some of the introspection, gigantic life questions, and such in boxes- you can't leave them out all the time or you'd never get out of bed. You can't ignore them forever and really understand many things. This is a moment to reflect, not a spiral of navel gazing.

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life 
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife 
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear 
Make up for lost time here in my next thirty years

My priorities have changed a lot in the last 10 years. I have gone from worrying only about myself to having a family. Family has eclipsed (but not eliminated) my personal aspirations. Leisure pursuits have changed dramatically and often, and managed to survive after a year of neglect. I don't know if men can really identify with this change in perspective, but I think it's fairly common in women. I'm pursuing a more mature balance of my occupations and even my moods.

I do foresee that the time ahead of me will be wonderful. For all that I have traded in settling down into a stable life, each day now with what I have is far better than what I could have had. For all that has passed me by, I am trying to remember the good times with fondness and let go of the things that were not worthwhile. Everything til now has brought me to this point, where things are largely well. There are toddler tempers and work stresses and general crap, but overall, things are great. Let's hope it continues to be so.


Katherine Collmer said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights! You will find that keeping your own personal goals on the same level of importance as family and "wifely" goals will be the only way that you can make a difference in your life and in the life of those you love. Setting your life on the back burner is a dangerous attempt to be perfect. I'm happy that you are continuing to seek your personal satisfaction in life, together with your family's! Have fun with life. It's the only way to live!

Helen Malingo said...

First of all, I like how you repeat Tim McGraw's song 'Next Thirty Years.' Second, I love your article, not just because of the song, but because of everything you say. You mention that you live for the journey, not the destination. That is pure poetry, in my humble opinion. Also, you said that you foresee that the time ahead of you will be wonderful. You have such a bright and optimistic attitude. Although you're dealing with occupational therapy you still see the bright side. I have to thank you for this nice refreshing read.