Though this time of year, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, can be extraordinarily busy, it also offers us a prime opportunity to step back and put our lives into perspective. We contemplate the following questions:
- What can we and can’t we live without?
- What are we grateful for?
- What mistakes have we made this year and how can we do better next year?
- What are our dreams and ideals?
I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more thought I give these questions. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but the ticking of the clock seems louder and I feel like any minute alarm bells will sound. The idiom “our days are numbered” resonates more clearly. No, I don’t believe that I will drop dead anytime in the near future; however, I am aware that is always a possibility. Therefore, I want to make the most out of life, and I don’t just want to focus on these questions during the holidays.
When my friend Jennifer passed away last year, my dreams and reality collided. I began to take stock of my life as I considered all the dreams she and I had discussed over our forty-three year friendship and how few of those dreams we had actually achieved. I considered the fact that I had worked sixty to eighty hours a week for as long as I could remember and how that impacted not only the quantity of time spent with family and friends but also the quality. Every year I began to hate my job just a little more, probably because it was all-consuming and extremely exhausting. When Jen and I would get together to have a drink and complain about work, we would laugh and say we were drinking a glass of “I Quit” with a “You Suck” chaser. But the reality is, we needed our jobs and the crazy schedules that came with them. We all need a paycheck, right? Well, after her death, I re-evaluated things. I planned for the future and gave myself a deadline. I buckled down to save some money and last June I left the teaching profession to pursue a career as a freelance editor and everything about my life changed in that instant.
One might think that starting a new business is stressful, but I am more relaxed than I have ever been. Even though I am currently only making a fraction of what I did before, I am not concerned. First, I was realistic. I figured it would take six months to a year to get fully established, and I saved and planned accordingly. Second, I realized, that though money is certainly important, there are things that are far more valuable. I now make time for my family, no matter the expense. I take off Thursdays and Sundays to spend with my mom. One of the perks of freelancing is the ability to work anywhere there is an internet connection, so my mom and I spent a month driving across country to visit family and friends. We were able to stay with my brother and help him recover from shoulder surgery. We were able to spend time with my sister, with Jen’s parents and aunt, and with numerous other family friends. We spent three days in Georgia participating in wedding festivities and watched my baby girl marry her soulmate. On the way back home we made a detour and spent a day at Crater of Diamonds State Park. We made memories!
Don’t get me wrong! I am still a perfectionist with a strong work ethic, but I have learned to let go a little. I may have an occasional day where I panic and wonder when the jobs and money will roll in on a consistent basis, but I believe in myself. I believe that Jen is guiding me, and she won’t let me fail. I am determined to live this life for both of us and refuse to miss out on the finer things life has to offer. I choose to be positive, to recognize that bad things happen, but those things don’t have to hold us back. Instead, they can propel us forward. Therefore, I thank God everyday, not just on Thanksgiving, for my many blessings. I choose to let go of the stress, to embrace the uncertainty, to pursue my dreams, and to firmly clutch hold of my loved ones. I urge each one of you to do the same.