How to Rethink The Idea of ‘Too Late’
Yesterday, I was shopping at one of those little gift shops that mostly only sells soaps and and jewelry you can’t imagine wearing, when a woman came up to me and said the thing that I strangers have been saying to me most often lately:
Whoops, I should have mentioned that I had my 9-month-old daughter T strapped on, and her “little legs” (which are, I’ll admit, awesomely juicy) were kicking around. T has been sick for two weeks now. She has been to Urgent Care where they declared she didn’t have COVID but did have an ear infection — both things I already knew. Now she’s on antibiotics, but her discomfort continues to break my heart — and hamper my ability to get anything at all done.
The thing is, I’m TRYING to enjoy these days. I’m trying to be as present as possible, acutely aware that I’m going to blink my eyes and all of a sudden T is going to be driving off in her Camaro to get something pierced. (My teen references are from the 1990s, and I’m OK with that because I think the ’90s are cool again.) Every time someone says, “Enjoy these days; soon it will be too late,” I get the ominous sense that I’m doing something wrong, that if I was truly enjoying the days the way I was supposed to (in order to avoid the inevitable too-lateness), people would be able to tell and would stop lecturing me about it.
It reminds me of what it was like to be a child. Child Sophie was sad a lot, and the adult response to this was quite often a variation on, “Enjoy these days; soon you’ll be a grown-up and have REAL problems.” This response absolutely shook me. I distinctly remember being 11 in a restaurant with a 10-and-under kids’ menu and having a full on MELTDOWN over it. My thought was:
I had a similar meltdown (but maybe more severe, because it was ALL DAY LONG) on my twenty-first birthday. I remember that as I looked back on my life, I saw that I had really not accomplished any of the things I had intended on accomplishing by 21. I despaired that I’d wasted my youth. I had not done a good enough job at childhood. And now…