I wonder how I will look back on this time. The common wisdom is that we don’t appreciate our blessings until it’s too late, that later in life we look back and think about how good we had it and how much better life would have been if we had only come to this realization sooner. If we only knew in the moment “Yes, this is it. This is my happy time”.
I read a study about the regrets that seniors have. The biggest regret wasn’t the things they had or hadn’t done. Their biggest regret was that they worried too much when time and health was on their side. They wished they could have that time back – the good times that they had poisoned with worry.
I remember sitting at a bar with a friend when I was 25 and lamenting my singledom. I was worried that I would never find someone. I was worried that I wasn’t capable of being in a relationship – my longest relationship up to that point had been six months. My friend had met her now husband in university. She had found her one. She said that while she was grateful to have found her “person” she wished it had happened later in life. It’s harder to do some things when you are in a relationship. If she’d met him later in life it would have been easier to travel, move around, date, explore.
For me, I think that I did generally, enjoy my single years. In fact I think I may have enjoyed them more than the situation warranted. I did travel, I did move around, I dated, I explored. I thought I was very happy – I just wanted to meet someone. Now I look back at that time when less rose-coloured glasses. I am impressed at how my younger self fended off loneliness with one move after another – finding new friends and routines in different cities. I am amazed with how well I bounced back after bad dates and mini-relationships. I look back at some of those dates – evenings that at the time I thought made “good stories” and thank God that I escaped some very precarious situations. When I think back to my worries – my fear that I would never find someone, my fear that I did not possess the innate qualities to successfully sustain a long-term relationship – I don’t think I was being silly. I feel compassion for my younger self. Under the circumstances, those fears were well-founded. I had been dating a lot men that didn’t weren’t well suited for my personality. I had been dismissing potential relationships before they had a chance to grow. How was I to know that soon I would find the man who was right for me and that that person would have the skills to make me reassess my quick-flight behaviour. I couldn’t have known that in terms of my love life I would turn out to be one of the luckiest people I know. There was no way I could have known the fortune that lay ahead for me. So my worrying, while wasteful, wasn’t stupid. I can’t blame younger, single me for worrying about her romantic future at that time.
Now I wonder how I will look back at this time. How I look back on it will, of course depend on how everything “turns out”. When, God willing, we do have kids, will I look back at my childless days as being the time of my life? Will I look back bitterly as most of my friends with kids do now, on a time when I could reflect, journal, leave the house without strollers or babysitters, go on date nights, to have “time for myself”? Will I think back to this time – my cozy rental apartment, my boring job, my unlimited time for whatever I choose to do; and think those were the days? Why did I poison those glory days with anxiety over the future, when we can’t control what comes ahead anyways? Will I be like those seniors in the study and wish I hadn’t worried too much. Yet if, in the worst case scenario, we can’t have kids, how will I look back on this time? Likely, I’ll look back at my worries with envy. Look back to a time when there was still hope, a time before I had gotten bad news, a time when I thought that my worries were just me being silly.
I don’t know if it is possible to eradicate worry. I don’t know if it is possible for me to stop comparing myself to others – like I did with my married friend when I was single, and now how I do when she has everything I want – a good job, a house and a couple kids. Will I look back at my anxieties now and shake my head at how wasteful it was to spend glorious, healthy days fretting over whether or not I will ever have children? Or will I look back at my now-self, the future younger-self, with compassion? Will I think, yeah that was tough. It’s hard not knowing. It’s normal have good days and bad days. I wish I could go back and tell that person, that no matter what happens, everything will be alright.