This is part of my series: Secrets of Adulthood
I remember a phone conversation I had with one of my best college friends while standing outside in the crisp air one night shortly after landing my first full time job, getting an apartment, and beginning to feel well and truly like an adult.
Despite living two streets away it had been a month or so since we’d seen each other. Life here in metro-Boston works that way for most of the people I know. Unless you have a planned obligation to see someone such as book club, mom’s group, or exercise class, you find yourself making the apologies for letting five weeks lapse since the last time. I’ve heard it’s different elsewhere.
We were in the midst of those opening remarks that sound like “things have been busy” and “has it really been that long?!” when I uttered something I hadn’t planned to say, but which has resounded with me since. It went a little like this.
Well last week I spent so much time going out to see people that this week I’ve really been focusing on going to the library and getting to bed early. I feel like I have a schedule that I follow. A week of intense socialization, a week of scholastic endeavors, and a midway week of making plans for the following week.
In essence I was acknowledging that Life Goes in Cycles. At that point I was just beginning to realize that there were long cycles and shorter cycles and, like the giant gear toys for children they have in my doctor’s office, somehow all these things fit together and play off one another. Some move faster, and others slower.
This is one of my “secrets” in particular because I often rub up against the realization that I have been watching a lot of TV lately, or reading huge quantities of internet articles about sustainability projects. Other times I am more focused on the things that I’m not doing, such as training for soccer or making arts and crafts. I am piqued with my inability to do all of these things at once, even as I deride modern culture and the emphasis on being busy, efficient, and productive.
Part of the difficulty of remembering that life goes in cycles is also bound up in the fact that I forget to look ahead to the long term. A coworker of mine scoffed at me once for referring to a two year time period for goal achievement as “forever.” I didn’t plan to still be at that same position in two years, to me it may well have been “never.”
My own life isn’t like that client’s life, several steps removed, possible to enter and exit in a comparatively short span of time. It’s also much more difficult to be objective about my life, and hard to follow what I should “work on” for an entire year. Especially when moods are fickle things, and there are other people involved in the decisions of time management.
Another reasons it’s easy to forget that life moves in cycles is because some of the way our culture operates is to erase the boundaries between natural cycles; in season and out of season produce is one of these things. The possibilities of purchasing any item, day or night, weekday or weekend points to our eradication of the cycles of rest and work. Children are often co-opted into this haziness of time by being encouraged via advertising to “grow up too soon.”
Because I am too worried about what I am not doing (training, studying, partying) though, I miss out of the richness of the cycle I’m currently in. After all, I know from experience, that with the exception of a few seasons of numbing depression, it is so easy to look at past stages and say “I had it so good then!” The difficulties are easy to put into perspective, or completely gloss over with new knowledge.
The smaller cycles are easier for me to change the direction of. After realizing that I would feel more satisfaction if I wrote blog posts, it’s possible to give up watching as many movies. The larger cycles are a little harder to live with. Having a small child does put constraints on some possibilities of travel or activities based on your tolerance for difficulty and extra planning.
The key to the smaller cycles seems to be self-knowledge, but the larger ones seem to be managed by the aforementioned thinking with the end in mind. What cycles do you find yourself in? What things are you willing to trade off now in order to enjoy your current phase of life? What are you looking forward to doing in the future?