I recently read an article by the illustrious Joan Didion called "Goodbye To All That," which detailed, in poetic prose and whimsical paragraphs, her twenties spent in New York City. Filled with funny anecdotes, crisp memories and a fair share of regrets, she rehashed her past, hoping to impart some wisdom at the generations to come.
Though the essay is focused on her love affair and breakup with the city of New York, there is an underlying lesson to the story that shouldn't be overlooked. In the eight years she encapsulates retelling her time in the city, she harps on one hard truth that every twenty-something should not take in stride: Time goes fast and you will regret wasting all those evenings, weekends and moments when you thought you had all the time in the world.
That was the year, my twenty-eight, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and ever procrastination, every word, all of it. -Joan Didion, "Goodbye To All That"
If you're in your early twenties, this should be a warning; a wake up call. You have someone older and wiser, someone who's been in the exact place you're standing, telling you exactly what happens as you get older and how to avoid the same mistakes, letting you know that you will regret those missed opportunities. You will realize that time goes a lot faster once you're an adult, and there isn't going to be enough time anymore to fulfill all those dreams and promises.
We are all guilty of it. I've found myself in front of a reality TV marathon before and looked up at the clock to realize I had spent four hours on the couch, doing nothing but staring mindlessly at whining women, who are apparently doing more with their lives at that moment than I could say for myself. I shrugged it off, thinking it didn't matter. There would be plenty more Saturdays to come.
I could make promises to myself and to other people and there would be all the time in the world to keep them. I could stay up all night and make mistakes, and none of them would count.- Joan Didion, "Goodbye To All That"
But there aren't going to be plenty more Saturdays. Already I see the days flying past as I run to catch up with them, exhausted. There aren't enough hours in the day, let alone days in the week to finish everything that you plan. You've probably already seen the signs of this as you continually make dinner plans with friends but can't find the time to actually make it, because there's other stuff going on that's more important.
You try to fulfill a daily To-Do list and you find it takes a week to complete the simple tasks. You say that you will work harder and start working towards your dream, but you're still stuck in the first job you took out of college.
I'm not sure why, but time goes faster as you get older and if you think you have regrets now from all the opportunities and chances you've missed along the way, then just wait until you're 45 and looking back. There's nothing worse than feeling like you've wasted your time, because time is precious. As we steadily climb the ladder of adulthood, mortality becomes less of a distant possibility and more of an imminent threat, making time a little more valuable each day.
So as you carelessly go through your twenties with little responsibility, few regrets and the whole world at your feet, think about all those moments, days, hours and weekends you are wasting and the piles of regret that are slowly building up in the corners. But if you really need a hard knock to get it through your head, here's exactly why every moment really does matter.
You Don't Get The Time Back
Time is a fleeting entity that becomes more valuable the older you get. Unlike missing clothes, lost watches or loaned money, time is something that will never be returned to you, no matter how badly you need it. Moments are fleeting and missing them is a lot like walking past money on the street and not picking it up. It was right in front of you, but you were too careless to take the time to notice.
Getting Older Makes It Harder
You can keep telling yourself that you will do it, but before you know it, it's going to be too late. The older you get, the more responsibilities you add to your load. There are more risks in taking opportunities and more sacrifices you will have to make. It's a sad truth, but following your dreams when you are 22 is a lot easier than when you're 52. There are no mortgages, no children and no responsibility on anyone but yourself.
Every Action Has A Reaction
You may think that going to a café and writing on your time off is just as much a waste of time as sitting in front of your television, but it's just not. Going out into the world, delving into your creativity and meeting people will lead to something far greater than sitting on your couch will. There's absolutely nothing that comes from staying in your living room all afternoon.
But putting yourself out there in the world, making moves and embracing life will bring results. You will meet people you never could have if you didn't leave the couch, you will see things that will change your point of view, you will become a different person.
You Regret The Things You Didn't Do
They say that you regret the things you didn't do much more than the things you've done. I believe that the pain of missed opportunity and lost time is a lot harder to bear than failure. When you fail, it means you tried. The effort alone is enough to let you sleep at night. But you will be kept awake by all those opportunities you passed on and all the time you wasted.
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