Tomorrow, You'll Be 44
I wrote this article in early 2017 for Building-Income. It’s one of my favorite pieces and one I thought I would share here.
I met my daughter, Sarah, for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, The Manito Tap House. Occasionally, we meet for a meal or coffee to catch up on the latest in her life. Sarah is young and busy so getting time with her is precious.
She’s learned to accept that whenever we’re together I’m going to impart some wisdom on her. The topics range from finances to education to general life advice. I don’t feel my parents were vocal enough with me about financial matters while I grew up and I know I wasn’t vocal enough with Sarah when she was younger. After reading Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I realized the rich communicated different things to their kids about money that the poor and middle class didn’t. Since discovering that book, I’ve made it a mission to really focus on the things I share with her. She’s told me she will occasionally think, “What would Colin do?” when faced with a tough situation, so I believe the talks are helpful
At this lunch, Sarah wanted to discuss her frustrations with her job. It was grating on her that it was taking so long to get where she wanted to go in life.
“You’re 22 years-old, kiddo,” I said, “tonight you’re going to go to bed and tomorrow you'll wake up and be 44 years-old like me.”
She crinkled her brow. “I don’t understand.”
“Yesterday, I was 22 years-old just like you. I was returning home from the Army and starting college. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. Then I woke up today and I’m sitting here with you and I’m 44 years-old.”
She studied me, waiting for the revelation.
“Do you remember high school?” I asked.
“How long ago does that feel?”
“That’s how leaving the Army feels for me. I was 22 years-old at the time. Just like you. Twenty-two years have gone by in the blink of an eye,” I said, snapping my fingers. “It might feel slow while you’re grinding through your actual day, but once you get past it and look back, you’ll realize time goes by fast and you didn’t really enjoy it.”
There’s an old saying about taking time to smell the roses. I thought I was doing that for a lot of years. I was spending freely on everything and not thinking of the future. I thought that's what it meant to appreciate the moment, but spending money doesn’t equate to enjoying your life.
I know I didn’t truly appreciate my time and how little of it we are given until recently.
My closest friend died of a heart attack when he was 42 years old. We were the same age when it happened.
Another close friend, who is a couple years older than me, recently had open heart surgery, and must constantly monitor himself now due to the drugs he takes following that procedure. Every day is reminder of how precious life is. I'm truly thankful he chose to go through the process.
My younger brother, after living most of his adult life battling drug addiction, died a couple months ago.
Life is shorter than any of us care to admit. It’s also coming at us faster than we realize.
Take care to appreciate where you are now. Work for something better, strive to improve, and recognize the lessons and benefits of each struggle, whatever they may be.
It’s sad to look back over your life and realize you didn’t appreciate your time enough. Take it from someone who has done that.
On the positive side, it’s not too late to change your life, no matter how old you are. As fast as the years go by, time can be forgiving if you’ll get up and hustle today. It will take hard work and a lot of focus, but it can be done.
A couple weeks ago, Sarah and I were talking during one of our coffee breaks. She referenced that topic of waking up and being 44. “When did we have that conversation?” she asked.
“Four years ago.”
“Geez,” she said, shaking her head in astonishment. “It feels like yesterday.”
“That was my point, kiddo.”
At that moment, the message had clearly sunk in.