Friday, January 31, 2014

When 20/20 Vision isn't So Great

Lately I have been hearing the phrase, “Hindsight is 20/20,” a lot. Too much I think. Too much, because it reminds me of all the things I wish I had done differently—opportunities I didn’t take, advantages I gave up on, responses I made to others that were a little too harsh, and decisions I made that should have been more thought out.
Now when I look back upon these things, the right answers are so clear. Now I have the knowledge and experience I needed to make those decisions. But now, it is too late. What’s done is done and I must live with the consequences.

Would it have made a difference if I had endured a bad coach one more year and played volleyball senior year of high school? Would I have gotten a scholarship to play in college? Would I have an easier time getting a job now if I had taught that class while getting my Master’s degree? Would my kids be better listeners if I had set stricter schedules for them when they were babies? Would my daughter have been more emotionally prepared for elementary school if I had held her back and given her one more year before starting kindergarten?

These and so many more are questions I ask myself all the time. Quick decisions I made when I thought I knew the answers are coming back to bite me now that I have a little more life experience under my belt. But what is most frustrating is that the same thing is going to happen with the decisions I am making today. I think I know the answers, but I know that I will soon find that I acted too swiftly.
There is no way to know the effects of our decisions before they pan out. One of the disadvantages of life is that we must live it before we can discover the right answers. Maybe it isn’t a disadvantage at all, but a blessing. Maybe there’s a reason we aren’t supposed to know the answers. Maybe we are actually better off looking back on our decisions with picture perfect vision rather than having a picture perfect life to begin with. Maybe the mistakes are what keep us from becoming too powerful, too proud, or too set in our ways.

I remember a time in my late teens when I couldn’t think of one regret I had in my life. Over the years, my challenges as a military wife and mother have far surpassed the easy life I had growing up, and my regrets are many. But at least these regrets serve a purpose—providing me wisdom and experience that I can use when making future choices.

Sure, there will be new situations in which I will be forced to make blurred, inexperienced decisions. And certainly, I will one day look back and see my error with 20/20 vision. But the truth is if we knew everything we needed to know about life before we lived it, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn and improve and discover our strengths.  The continuous cycle of experiencing and then learning is our only path to uncovering the wisdom that life offers.

Hindsight is 20/20, yes. But don't beat yourself up for not knowing the future. Rather than living your life worrying about what you should’ve done differently, consider what your choices have taught you. There’s a good chance that you now know something you otherwise would’ve never discovered.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

When One Minute Holds an Entire Year

As I lie there and watch the crowded streets of New York City on my television screen, I begin to drift off to sleep wondering how all of those people have the energy to spend an entire day standing in one spot, in the freezing cold, waiting to ring in the New Year. I wake up a few minutes later to the sound of Miley Cyrus singing Wrecking Ball, and scowl at the idea that this is the stuff America is popularizing right now. Why would they pick her above all the truly great artists out there to sing on the last night of the year? Publicity I suppose. For a few moments, my mind is distracted by my disappointment with the entertainment industry.
But the camera turns back to the ball, which is lit up beautifully. I look at the countdown clock at the bottom of the screen…only a minute and a half left in 2013. Now a minute fifteen seconds, now a minute. As the crystal ball begins to drop, my thoughts turn to the past year. Images of everything that happened, everything we did, all the new beginnings and final endings, flash through my mind like the scene in Armageddon when Bruce Willis’ character is about to push the button. I try to remember all of the best moments we had, the ones that truly made the year great. I see my kids running and playing and growing up way too fast. I long to stop the clock so I can have just a little bit longer to capture the memories. And as that ball reaches the bottom, as the 2014 sign lights up so brilliantly in celebration of the year to come, I see 2013 as a page on a calendar, ripped off by the wind and blown away into the dark night, not to be seen again.  
How does a year go by so fast? Why is it that we don’t realize that it’s happening until the very end? And why do I waste my time on things that will never matter when life is going in fast forward all around me?
Every year that goes by cannot be relived. In fact, every month, week, day, and second that goes by cannot be relived. Each moment that lies before us is uniquely special in that it is a one-time deal. Once it is past, it is gone for good.
This year, I vow to worry less and relax more. I vow to complain less about the things I can’t change and do something about the things I can change. I vow to take more pictures and create more vivid memories of our adventures. I vow to try my best to live in the present and celebrate each day for what it is: a unique and special moment in time that is mine to create. 

What will you do to more fully create your 2014? I’d love to hear!