For someone who is living out her 41st year of existence, I believe I have something to say about this. Societal expectations, peer pressure, the need to live life on a linear and logical path are some of the factors that place pressure on us as individuals. It is ‘expected’ that at a certain age or phase of life, you should have settled down aka married, have a few kids, stashed enough money away for the future, bought a house, be upwardly mobile career-wise and just have it all together. I chuckle because, in reality, it is not so.
It is easy to feel like you are playing catch up when your life doesn’t pan out like what I described above, when at the age of 28- you are unsure of what you want in life, when at 35- you long for a family of your own, but you are yet to meet a partner talk less about having babies, when at 40- you’d love to own your own house, but you’re still renting, when at 50- you are thinking of enrolling in school, or at 60- you have no stashed investments for retirement, and the list goes on and on.
The truth is that even with the seeming outward successes or achievements some of us have, if we are being honest, we are still unsure about a lot of things. We sometimes feel we are not doing as well as we’d like to. You feel like you are falling behind everyone else. For some, this feeling could be labelled or disguised as a quarter or mid-life crisis, while for others, it is called ‘under-achieving’ or low key ‘late-blooming’. It’s in these moments that we judge ourselves harshly, momentarily forgetting that we all stumble, that we fall, that the ones we think have it all together actually don’t. We forget to tell ourselves to pick ourselves up and start again or forget to remind our souls that each person’s life is different from the next and the yardsticks we measure our time against are skewed.
In my case, emigrating ‘set me back’ a few years simply because there were certain dynamics emigration presented. For example, while my friends back home were having children and advancing their careers, I was busy trying to settle in a foreign country and getting myself established. The least of my concerns was having children- I couldn’t change that, and I was happy with my life, because starting a family wasn’t a priority at that time. To have compared myself with my friends back home or in other places around the world would have been a futile exercise, as IT IS A GIVEN that we are all on different life journeys.
While pondering on this issue of ‘running out of time’, especially because we are running nowhere fast lately, caught up in the race to attain, I stepped back and asked myself a few questions which led me to conclude that it is an illusion to think that I am running out of time. I’ll implore you to consider these questions too.
1. What makes me think I am running out of time? Who said so- society, opinions and expectations of people, me? On whose timelines am I basing my judgement of my time on? Did I set out with everyone I occasionally compare myself to on the same starting line? Were we presented with the same set of circumstances, opportunities and challenges? I couldn’t answer these questions convincingly and I concluded that it is a false claim to state that I am running out of time, or that ‘everyone’ is ahead of me.
2. I can only do so much in my life, with the time I have, the cards life dealt me and currently deals me, as well as my peculiar circumstances. As long as I keep ticking key priorities off my list and I’m not sitting idly, tapping my fingers, then I should be chuffed with myself.
3. If I have put my best efforts in everything I have done (and doing), I should be happy with how far I have come. Think about it, to get to where you are, you have done a lot, and I know you still plan on doing more, so regardless of regardless of whether you attain all you hope to in the near or long term future, you can choose to be happy, satisfied and content.
4. I am enjoying where I am now, moving towards my goals, not remaining stagnant, but reinventing and improving myself while putting my best foot forward. There is a genuine sense of progress I constantly relive because I know I am not bound to a rigid timeframe.
5. Age should never be a deterrent to doing some things I need to do. I discuss dreams and aspirations with women in their 40s, I study with people approaching their 50s, I do high intensity-interval training (HIIT) classes with women in their 60s who look as fit as fiddles etc. Without being denigrative of certain instances where time matters- such as the ‘biological clock’ discussion around child bearing ages and the fact that at certain ages, you can’t engage in certain physical activities and much more, age is not a limit in a lot of other things. Point is, as long as I am alive and breathing, I can take another step forward.
6. I only have NOW, and I’ve got no view or control of the time ahead, but what matters is how I make the best use of the time I have now in order to move me forward. With my time spent on activities that nurture and indulge me, moving me closer to my goals, then I know I am not running out of time. My focus on my now is to laugh, move my body, feel my pains and joys, immerse myself in fulfilling work, share my joys, dream and hope, love deeply and truly. If I am clear on the steps I need to take, and I keep doing what I know to do, doing the best I know to do with what I have, I am not running out of time.
As I’m older now, I am more vibrant, happier, have a fantastic sense of myself, find that my priorities are shifting, friends are fewer, I am more protective of my space but more vulnerable at the same time. Simply put, I am content. Don’t get me wrong, my life is not void of challenges or trials, in fact, things have been harder lately. But I have chosen to live within the ambits of what I can control, to stop reminiscing about the past and not get overly hung on what I cannot control aka the future.
I take pride in how far I have come and look forward to more fun times. I am not running out of time, I only need to appreciate and make the best of the time I have left. I implore you to do the same.
Chat soon xoxo
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