Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forward. ~Kierkegaard
My oldest child is now in his first year of college and is finding out all too quickly just how difficult life can be. Over the course of his first semester, he was easily frustrated and pretty much ready to throw in the towel. We’ve had an ongoing conversation that goes something like this: “Life isn’t fun anymore; all I do is go to school, do homework, go to work, then get up tomorrow and do the same thing over again.” He’s only 18 years old and already he has figured out how easy it is to get in a grind, not really enjoy anything and simply do what’s expected of you day after day. As I listened to his complaints, I couldn’t help but think, “Well, welcome to adulthood.” At the same time, my heart sort of broke inside as I realized that my little boy who used to have nary a care in the world is, for the first time, beginning to understand just how difficult this whole adult thing really is. He no longer wants to spend money frivolously because then he won’t have “enough.” He no longer has a set schedule and ready made plans that dictate his every move from day to day. He now has to make those decisions for himself. He no longer has an outside entity providing him opportunities to use his talents and shine for others to see. He now has to create those opportunities for himself. And as he struggles through, trying to find life’s answers to his larger than life questions, I only wish I could impart to him some of the lessons I’ve learned along life’s journey. It’s too bad that the person who has already been through so much and who is looking from the other side can’t simply transfer that understanding to the individual just beginning their walk. I’ve often wondered if I could do such a thing, what advice would I offer an individual like my son.
As I’ve thought over my own life experiences, I’ve concluded there are at least three principles by which every person of integrity should live. First, make decisions wisely because what we do early in life will follow us the rest of our days. In their youth, kids so often act without thinking and, unfortunately, end up suffering the consequences of their actions. Whether the decision is to throw away educational opportunities or drink and drive, what I do today will most certainly impact how I live tomorrow. Second, honor your family every opportunity you get; you never know how long you’ll be privileged to have them in your life. While I have been fortunate in the fact that I have suffered minimal loss in my own life, my husband has not; he has lost a number of loved ones, including his parents, his sister and his daughter. It’s easy to take for granted what we have, not realizing that the relationships we enjoy today may not be there tomorrow. Finally, live your life on purpose, treating every day as a gift to be cherished. As Zig Ziglar says,“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” We all need to establish goals and aspirations and then intentionally create a plan to make them happen. Aspire to nothing and you’ll surely achieve it.
I’m not so naïve as to believe that my child will take full advantage of the lessons I’ve learned through my own life mistakes. I do believe; however, he is well on his way, as evidenced by his own words of wisdom, presented in a special occasion speech last semester. Since I was little, I have always looked up to my parents; the two people I was surrounded by at all times have taught me the most important lessons in life. Their dedication to family, career and faith has served as a constant inspiration, from their commitment to education to their encouraging spirit to their pursuit of excellence. It doesn’t get much better than that!