Using and Losing Time
A very scary event is on the horizon for me.
My 50th high school reunion. FIFTY!
I remember my parents going to my dad’s 50th. Oh my god, they were so OLD. It’s a good thing I’m so much younger now than they were then.
A reunion is a wonderful time to gather and … measure.
How old do we look? How many children? How many divorces?
How much have we accomplished?
Of course, we could and should ask ourselves this every day. But we don’t.
And by “accomplished,” I don’t necessarily mean how much money or career success or fame we’ve managed to stockpile in the 50 years we have been officially grownups.
All that is nice, of course. I’ve done okay on those counts. I’ve had a rewarding career, and lots of nice stuff in the closets of my nice house.
But more important than success is whether my life FEELS like a success.
In some ways, the answer is YES.
Most significantly, I have tried throughout my life to be a good human being. I try to think the best of people, to understand others, to be kind. I have succeeded in this. I like myself.
For personal fulfillment, the two novels I wrote satisfy me in ways I cannot even describe. I hold those books, read those pages, and think “I did this!” It nourishes my soul.
I never had children, and that is a huge sorrow – and maybe writing stories is a poor substitution – but I do believe there is some of the same feeling there. I have created something of worth. Something I am proud of. Something that will live on after me. No, my books won’t remember me or love me, but it is the best I can do. It will have to do.
And I love the watercolors I have produced. By putting paint to paper, I’ve been creating small joys for others. I may not be immortal, but maybe a few pets are memorialized for the humans who love them.
Back to the reunion.
I looked at our Class Reunion website yesterday. There is a memorial page on the website for those of us who have died. We had a large class – over 400 graduates. The remembrance page had more than 40 names. Ten percent of my classmates are dead.
This fact astonishes and saddens me. Fifty years since high school is a very long time. But we are not that old. None of us is seventy. In ten or twenty years we will be old. Right now we are only just past middle age. Only some of us never got there.
Our losses, our deaths, will only accelerate now.
We have only a limited time left to measure our accomplishments.
There’s nothing wrong with slowing down – with taking life a little easier as you age.
But how I want to squeeze in more accomplishments! I want to feel that I have contributed to the world. I want to feel important- not necessarily to the world, but to myself.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed with shame. The shame of lost time. The shame of future lost time that I know I will waste..
I dawdle too much. I daydream too much. I fritter.
I wonder what I might have accomplished in those hours of television. Crosswords. Twitter. Solitaire. Magazines. Shopping for more nice things for my nice closet. I wonder what I will not accomplish in those future hours of wasted time.
John Lennon (and actually many before him) said, “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” And I agree. Not every moment of your life needs – nor should be – momentous. Watching a sunset has benefits that will not show up on your resume. Or playing with the dog. Or filling in that last square in your crossword puzzle, for that matter.
But the conflict between leisure and the need for accomplishment escalates.
I need to enjoy what short time I have left here. But I want to have something more on my list of what made my life worthwhile.
I will keep my crossword, I think, as perhaps it helps keep my brain sharp. But a considerable amount of Twitter time needs to be redirected. Twitter sometimes entertains, but more often makes me angry. I will try checking in a few times a day – with my oven timer set on 15 minutes.
I will keep playing with my dogs. In fact, I will play more with my dogs. My blood pressure will thank me for the shift from tweets to barks.
And although I love TV, I don’t think “Say Yes To The Dress” will be part of my legacy. A third novel however, just might.
Will I be more successful if I write three books instead of two? Probably not. But will I feel that I made some use of whatever time I have left? I probably will.
And I will search for more. Question more. Explore more. Learn more.
When I go to my class reunion in the Fall, I will smile and say hello to all these nice people who share a common incomplete mission: To be happy and fulfilled before we say hello to our completed companions.
______________________________________________________________________________PS. If you live anywhere near northwestern Connecticut, and you’d like to feel more connected and productive in your writing, I have convinced my friends, authors/editors John and Natalie Bates , to lead one of their terrific one-day intensive writing workshops. The date is September 14th. For more information, click on the banner at the top of the page, Writers Workshop Of Litchfield.
- Posted in: Advice ♦ Aging ♦ dogs ♦ Television ♦ Writing
- Tagged: class reunion, retirement, success
50th for me next year 2020. Just might have to make it back to Bristol for that one. I’ve only missed 2 in all these years my 5th and my 45th so the 50th is definitely a given. Maybe we can get together at that time old friend.
You look great..very pretty.
Sorry..I just noticed I typed a t instead of an r in my name. Carol
Nancy. Your words are inspiring and oh so true for many of us. Your paintings are magical. You truly capture the spirit of every pet you paint. Thank you for sharing. This certainly will be a very special reunion. It seems like yesterday we were seniors in high school, now we’re seniors in life.
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Nancy… So well written!! Love reading your words! Hope everyone will think of what they still want to do!!! See you at the reunion, where we can all go back in time for a bit!!!
I went to my 40th 3 years ago, and it was wonderful. Nobody but the people you grew up with has the same experiences and frames of reference you do. And all the old high school drama crap was gone. It was just so good to see these kids (and they are still kids to me) after so long and remember and celebrate our youth – and to reflect on and miss those who are gone. And because I hadn’t been back for a reunion before, there were kids calling others from my class and those a year or two before me and a year or two behind me, and saying,”Guess who’s in town.” Then they would track me down so we could visit. It was such fun and an absolute joy! I’ll never regret it. And if I’m around for my 50th, I will definitely go – with joy in my heart.☺
You have aged well
I have zero interest in school reuinions
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You have aged extremely well! I hope you will do a post after the reunion and how you found it? Next year is my 20 year – don’t know if there is going to be something planned and if I’d go. I didn’t stay in contact with anyone from high school – some people get this and some people don’t!
I love your blog and want to read your books now! Very true words about wasted time not being wasted if we are enjoying it. And i hope when you say “less Twitter time” that doesn’t mean less “Theo” because I do love him. Enjoy your 50th reunion. You are beautiful, inside and out.
I have this same dilemma, between ‘productive’ or ‘relaxing’ use of time. I guess we all do, and it feels more urgent as we get older, and all we can do is try to strike the right balance.
I don’t watch TV, and I never regret time spent reading, but you’re right about Twitter. It has its good points, and can be a wonderful emotional link to like-minded people, as well as a great resource for information, but most of it is trivial amusement, and it consumes SO much time. (My problem with limiting it is guilt over the friends I’m not keeping up with, but that’s a different issue!)
I used to write, and felt that same drive to ‘produce’ something for posterity, but I’ve relaxed more about that now. My grandmother wrote lots of little stories and rhymes, and was very keen for them to be preserved (which they are), but after she died I realised her real legacy was the memories we have of her personality, her love and laughter. The effect we have on the people we leave behind (friends, colleagues, nieces and nephews, etc, for those of us without offspring) is both more ephemeral and more meaningful than words in print. I always thought that, because I love reading books, being able to create, and express myself in that way, was the most important thing for me. Now I’m less sure. It’s still a wonderful thing, but I realise we leave little seeds of ourselves every time we interact with anyone, so those creations might end up just as lasting.
Nancy, you were an adorable high school student, but you are a truly beautiful woman—outside and inside. Sadly, my high school
class didn’t organize a 50th reunion in 2015.
As a somewhat shrinking violet in high school, I have been pleasantly surprised at what a great time I’ve had at all the reunions I’ve attended, including 50. At one (40 or 45), I was told (second-hand) that D* L*, who had been one of my tormentors in high school, told someone that I was the best-looking woman at the reunion. That made the trip from Texas to Ohio worthwhile! One thing I’ve enjoyed is that all the petty ego trips have faded, the beauty queens are fat, the plain girls are knockouts, and most of the guys are bald and paunchy. You look great, you’ve accomplished so much, and you’ll have a wonderful time. PLEASE post something about it afterwards!
I have this thing that there’s an invisible judge and commentator in my head that constantly assesses my progress on various fronts. I feel like if I went to a school reunion, that presence would be in overdrive, going, have you aged better than them or worse, has your success in life and love given the old bullies the finger, as in, school outcast conquers Hollywood ☺
Looking forward to the post-reunion blog.
Looking forward to the post-reunion blog.
I like your painting of the dog and the quote that time wasted that you enjoyed is not time wasted. Good point. I am a writer too and have 2 co-authored books published, a little contribution to the world and posterity and I admit to being old LOL. Terra Hangen
I think just staying alive and functioning somewhat is an accomplishment these days. I went to my 40th (La Mirada High School, California). in 2009 and it wasn’t so much about connecting with the people it was about connecting who I was then with who I am now. I realize how much I have changed. I would say that more than 10% of my class has passed. I don’t plan to go to my 50th this year.