I was driving the other morning and I looked at my hands, gripped on the steering wheel. They looked so familiar. Genetically in almost all aspects, I resemble my Father’s side of the family. My laugh, my ears, nose, and height. Although I am only 5’6”, I towered over my Mom, she reached a whopping 4’11”. I noticed my hands that morning, and thought, I remember these, they are Mom’s.
Mom left the world too early. She suffered for years with a smoking addiction which led to her death at the age of 54. Seeing her hands again brought back so many memories. Even though I have officially been without her longer than the days I was able to spend with her, I recall everything about her.
I specifically remember my Mom’s hands one day when she was driving, and quite similar to what I noticed about my own is that they were looking older. Her skin was a tad looser and seemed to be getting that crepe look to them. Reality set in, this aging thing is real and I can’t fight it forever and dang, I don’t want this life to go by so quickly.
I always say, the one thing that comes with age is wisdom. It’s true. By the time you hit your mid-40s, you have experienced most things that has impacted or shaped who you are. You most likely have hunkered down into being comfortable in your own skin, albeit crepe, loose or however you choose to describe it. For me age has done that. I’ve achieved that comfort of understanding the value I bring to the table for my profession, family, and friendships. I rarely get intimidated by new situations, but still have a healthy fear of failure, it keeps me on my toes. This doesn’t mean I operate without insecurity, but it isn’t the norm.
Age has also given me perspective. Success was defined in my early 20s about the new work opportunities I was able to commandeer or being a part of winning a new piece of business, a new promotion, or things I was able to do or accumulate from a material nature. It was my focus. I was single, a budding professional, and a transplant into a larger city from a small town atmosphere. I met a great friend who I had so much fun with who ultimately ended up being my husband. I remember thinking, “wow, this is good”. I made it, I had arrived.
My 30s brought new adventures. Still climbing my way to the top of the heap professionally, I was learning so much, it was so invigorating. I had my first child, Olivia, when I was 33. She stopped me in my tracks. I felt a new sense of vulnerability I had never felt. I realized I loved something more than myself, my spouse, my career, more than anything I had ever loved. She was way bigger than my dreams, she was way better than I expected that life could be. So, I pivoted emotionally. I found a decent balance with my career but still on the move, and Matt and I with the support of his parents allowed me to do that balance thing I hear so much about. There is no work life balance, there are mere moments of peaks and valleys and sometimes one requires more time than the other. The goal was that nothing and no one suffered while I pursued the climb. All was good. We saved enough to build a new home and continued to build upon our retirement fund. A decade later, I’m sliding out of my 30s with two beautiful children, a happy marriage, and I hit a bucket list item in my career. I had a goal to hit a C-level position by the time I was 40. I was hired April 21st as Chief Operating Officer at a medium-sized family owned business, just before my 40th birthday, May 1st. “Wow, life was great”. I made it, I had arrived!
A few years later, Olivia is now pushing 12, Mitch follows her at almost 10. What? Wait a minute, what just happened here? It is such an awakening when you remember how your parents told you not to rush the years, it will go by so fast. Again, they were right.
I have had the privilege of having an extraordinary group of friends. They are unique in that we all have our kids in common, they are all in similar age ranges, we have similar views on life, and we genuinely enjoy hanging out and maybe enjoying a bit of Knob Creek. The other interesting thing is, we rarely talk about work or what we do to fund our lives. In fact, it doesn’t even hit the care meter, it does not matter, no one in this group is defined or judged by one another in these ways. At least I hope not, we never talk about it (insert laugh). We may discuss circumstances in the workplace, but generally we are off on broader topics like the forecast or when is the next ball game, next concert we want to go to, when is our friend’s band going to play again, who put the Fireball in the freezer. You know, real cutting edge stuff.
We recently vacationed together at a lake. All 15 kids on the trip secretly planned a dance for our last night together. We all gathered and the music started to play and then it was absolute magic, it was a piece of heaven. As I stood back and took video of the moment, my lens on life continued to change. At that moment I saw the kids dancing for us and then the adults joining in and danced and laughed and laughed and danced. Literally all 27 of us got our groove on the deck, overlooking the lake with passing boats pausing to catch a look at this huge dance party. Everything seemed less to me, nothing could compete. While I was taking video, I was trying so hard to capture every moment in the hard drive in my brain, wishing the moment could last forever. I was overwhelmed, I was fighting tears because in my life I realized, these moments are fleeing and its time to really look hard, capture more of these moments, dance like no one is watching, and for goodness sake not care when people are.
It became so easy to reflect on more moments, the ones that make your heart beat fast and the lump rise in your throat. Like witnessing one of my very best friends meet and marry a man that fills her soul, talking to my Dad on the phone and laughing to tears, giving my brother grief, hugging my in laws goodbye before they leave for a trip, enjoying a beautiful dinner with friends, watching someone you have led for years rise through the ranks and achieve beyond their own expectations, and while mentioned last, certainly not least, absorbing all of those special moments with the kids. Or looking at my husband and realized he saved me from a much different life, and actually confessing it to him out loud. Having moments, rich, juicy, meaty, wonderful and full moments with people that you love….I’m seeing these moments more often. I download them all of the time.
I figured out that all of this stock I was putting into getting somewhere and doing more had nothing to do with my arrival in life. Now don’t get me wrong, the game of business is on my favorite playlist of life. I enjoy it to such a great degree and it is incredibly important to me. I love it, it is my playing field, it is how I put up points on the scoreboard, my three-point shot. My vigor for success is meaningful for various reasons, but it no longer has to do with “making it” in life. My career accomplishments no longer get to have the A stock in my life. The people in my life do.
Arriving means different things to different people. Arriving can change meaning over time and people get “there” through different means. The morale of the story, don’t spend too much time trying to do, spend time making. Making memories, making friends, making fun, and making the love story of your life.
I’m ok with seeing my mother’s hands on my steering wheel, age and all. They have worked hard to get me to the place at which I have arrived.