Sunday, July 8, 2012

When Midnight Comes Too Soon

I know it's kind of long. You'll live, though. I promise. ^.~ Thanks for being an awesome fan.

Started June 25, 2012
I don’t know why I suddenly decided to sit down and write this. In my entire life I had never considered that one of the more important things I would do would be to write a blurb of an idea that set me on my present course. Hopefully important—not only to me, but to others who may have found inspiration, value, or otherwise meaningful emotions from anything I have ever contributed.
Don’t let the title fool you, this is not a love story; this isn’t a fantasy or sci-fi novel—it isn’t even a fictional story. Oh sure, I may recount references of my life; but only for the purpose of exemplifying my meaning. I can only hope they are recollections of a more humorous time of my life. The point is it’s unlike anything I’ve ever written before, or anything I thought I’d be famous for writing to say the least. Not that I’m trying to suggest I’m famous either—except in my own mind. It’s alright to laugh. I hope you do.
It’s a metaphor. The idea of midnight coming too soon. It’s a metaphor that maybe made you think of Cinderella; but like I said, this isn’t a story of some damsel in distress. I certainly don’t consider myself a damsel in distress either. As a matter of fact, I consider myself to be quite awesome. Again, it’s fine to laugh.
Let’s get to it.

Waiting for Midnight
          My kids said something to me. It was something I have said more times than I can count. I said it throughout my childhood, and I realize I still say it several times a day. I’m thinking it right now, even as I’m writing this. Regardless of how long it has taken me to accomplish this much, I shouldn’t.
          How is it that these three little words can cause us to do things we shouldn’t do, or wouldn’t do, or even prevent us from doing what we want to do?
          I can’t wait. This is how my eight year old and seven year old begin so many of their statements. I can’t wait…
-       I can’t wait until I’m old enough to drive a car
-       I can’t wait for school to be over
-       I can’t wait for that cartoon to come on
-       I can’t wait until Daddy comes home.
It’s been this statement that’s plagued my mind so much that in order to “get over it” I thought I should just write it down; write down all of the things I keep coming back to, all of the events that brought me to this whole new philosophy, all of the things I thought I just couldn’t wait for. Of course, at the time I didn’t think it would turn into this.
          Obviously the idea is just an exaggeration. We can wait, and essential we do and will wait. It’s mostly just something we say when we are excited about something. The only problem with this idea is what we fail to realize every time we think we can’t wait; what we let pass us by because we’re so focused on getting to that place we think we can’t wait to be.
          So my kids have exaggerations about being older; and it’s something we’ve all done as children. As we get to that point, though, we begin realizing how quickly time has passed. That’s when we begin longing for the past, longing for opportunities to make different choices—maybe even go back to the simplicity of being a child.
          Do you remember being a kid? No real worries, no bills, much fewer responsibilities. Maybe it wasn’t always picture perfect. Maybe your parents fought a lot, or maybe you were bullied in school, or maybe you had some strict parents (possibly abusive). The point is you had reasons for thinking the future was forever away.
          I would like to think my own kids have a relatively typical life. My husband and I fight—well… we argue. We’re in that bracket of people who get by week-to-week or month-to-month when we’re lucky. We’re not miserable, though, if that’s what you’re thinking (or hoping). We did, however, take our kids out of public school. It was a tough decision, but we made it. The result is that our kids are no longer exposed to the intense bullying of today’s generation. That’s not to give you the impression that we could afford that decision or that we are somehow afraid of bullying. There were other issues we had with the school system that contributed to our decision. The reason I told you this was simply to give you an idea of how averagely we live (or at least, I believe we are average).
          So when I hear my kids say, “I can’t wait…” I try to help them see the things they are obviously missing right in front of them. After all, there are not many people I know that would say if given the chance to go back to their youth, knowing the things they know now, wouldn’t only go back, but would do things slightly different. Maybe they don’t admit they would do things differently, but let’s be honest; there are some choices everyone has made in their life that they change. No one wants to admit that kind of stuff because of the doors it opens (especially with spouses).
          Anyway, I’m not so foolish to think that anything I say to my kids will actually get through to them. Not at this age at least. I didn’t listen to everything my parents told me until it was too late, and I can only expect the same hard-headedness from my offspring. I won’t entirely throw my husband under the bus, but I’m sure there’s a bit of contribution in there from him, too.
In any event, I’m their teacher on top of being their mother. I tell them to stop waiting for midnight; it will come. In the meantime, enjoy right now. Do what’s in your ability to live for this moment, because when it’s gone it’s the only thing you’ll want.
          The first time I said this to them they asked me, “What does that have to do with midnight?” I think this is also the point where they tune me out, but I explain anyway:
          Cinderella was given an opportunity to live a little. But it was a limited time offer, right? She only had until midnight. Now, everyone knows the story—she went out and had a wonderful time, and in the end she married a prince and lived happily ever after. Suppose, instead, that Cinderella had sat around with her rat friends, just watching the clock, and not doing the things that she did with the time she had. Would she have become a princess? Would she be living the rest of her life in a castle? Most likely not.
          Of course, I add all kinds of details about how Cinderella made herself beautiful and made a dress. The result of this is my oldest boy telling me, “yea, but we’re not girls going to balls. And we don’t wear dresses!” Of course my seven-year old starts cracking up because he thinks it’s amusing that his brother said balls. I tend to forget I’m dealing with seven and eight-year olds, but when I remember I try to paint a simpler image. It’s summer break, so they are allowed to stay up until midnight (if they can make it that late). So I say to them, “Midnight is coming and you’ll be in bed soon. What are the things you can do before bed, or before midnight?”
          They’ll give me a list of cartoons they can watch, present the idea of putting on a movie, tell me about toys they could play with, or computer games they could enjoy. They avoid anything like reading a book or doing something productive, because they know I’d encourage that. Next, I’ll say to them, “So what are you going to do?”
          They shrug. Part of me wonders if they do that just to test me, but it doesn’t matter. It allows me to make my point. “So you’re just waiting for midnight, then?”
          For my kids, and for many of us as we were kids (and maybe still), summer lasts forever—at least until it’s time to go back to school. It’s so innocent, so childish to think this way. We think opportunity will last forever and we wait to take advantage of it. The truth is, midnight will come. It always comes. The opportunity to do something will pass, and when it’s all gone all we have to back on is the time we let slip by. Unfortunately, we tend not to comprehend this until we reach a certain age in life. The few of us that can understand and act upon these ideas early on are the truly fortunate ones who tend to generate the most success.
          If you’re like me, though, and this concept has eluded you for most of your life, don’t worry—there’s still time. Thanks to modern technology and science people are living much longer. That may not be very comforting either, especially if you’re still just waiting for midnight at this stage of your life.
          Now, I’m not a liar, and I feel I have to admit certain truths. That being said, it’s important that I admit that much of this philosophy was fueled by greed. I’ve never been rich. My parents weren’t rich growing up, and I certainly wasn’t brought up living richly. In fact, we didn’t live much differently than I currently live. For the most part, my parents kept the roof over our heads, food on the table, gas in the car (which was much cheaper, though), and once in a blue moon my brother and I got a bonus—like a toy or a book we wanted. We weren’t poor. We made it to Disney many times (and only at the expense of paying bills).
          However, my brother and I can recall spending three years in south Florida without air conditioning during the summer and heat in the winter because our dad thought he was sticking it to the electric company. We look back and laugh now, and sometimes even remind our own kids of just how easy and nice they have life; but back then we just sweated our butts off and felt miserable.
          Anyway, having grown up middle-class and continuing to be middle-class made me realize how much I hated being middle-class. After all, I didn’t grow up imagining how nice it would to live like I grew up, or how great it would be to get hand-me-down clothes. I imagined living in a mansion and having fancy dinner parties, always having fabulously new dresses and shoes, and getting my hair and nails done by professional people.
          When I was 27, and out of a job, I began to wonder why I wasn’t any of those things. That’s when I really began reflecting on my life and realized: here I was—a Cinderella (figuratively…mostly). Instead of getting up and going to the ball, though, I was doing the things that would just get me by. I was just watching the clock tick away until it hit midnight.
          As I thought about the time I wasted doing nothing, the many opportunities (oh man, how many there were) I let slip away—it dawned on me that looking back and regretting had to stop. I wish I could say this was a quick process, but it wasn’t. It took time to get over stupid mistakes I made. I still think about some of them. I know I can’t change them, though. What I can do is recall how much it killed me to think about what was gone, and instead of wallowing in self-pity, turn that junk into the fuel that will ensure I never let another opportunity pass again.
          Are you waiting for midnight to come? Are you expecting that once it gets here things will magically get awesome? Unless you’re a character in a Disney classic, or have some kind of big inheritance coming, midnight will come, but there won’t be anything magical. If you want that magical, even fairytale-ish thing to happen in your life, you have to have a big hand in it. You have to make the magic for yourself. If you’re not doing something yet—working towards something—it’s time to start. If you are working towards something—great! I hope this will become something that helps inspire and support you along the way, when you struggle, and when you run into doubt. 

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