I grew up on “Dead Poets Society” and “The Breakfast Club.” Robin Williams was my teacher idol and Judd Nelson my idol crush. Give me poetry and Saturday school and see what happens. I majored in English and read “Leaves of Grass.” Of course I did. I am the bulls eye in the targeted audience for carpe diem in all its glory. I want magic and opportunity. I want the extraordinary life.
Except now I have three kids not yet in school and I work from home. I have hair that needs washing and meals that need making and bills for the fence that got knocked over in the storm. I am in the suburban sprawl, both in mind and manner most of the time. I’ve got an HOA, man. It takes a little more work than it once did to summon up my inner Whitman.
My kids though, they are YOLO extraordinaires. They don’t need reminders to seize the day. Their lives are a series of moment-by-moment snapshots, an old timey moving picture reel of footage that they have no desire to rewind or slow down because everything is a race to the finish. Dinnertime is years away and tomorrow is something for adults.
This is the duality we will always face: the necessity to plan ahead and lock everything in to the Google calendar and the pull to cut and run, move to Italy, create the feature film of our lives.
When patients with terminal illnesses were polled on their biggest regrets, answers centered around what it means to live a “true life,” things like “I wish I had the courage to express my feelings” and “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” There are so many regrets we do not want to have. We want to instill our lives with whimsy, but also substance. We want to give our children a future through all our hard work, but we don’t want that work to make us miss our children.
So, if we struggle to walk the line, how do we teach our kids to find the balance? Have fun, be fulfilled, and succeed at their goals?
I think they have to see us try. I think they need to see their parents strive for big things, and not just financially. They need to see us set goals for mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. And they also need to see us hit the pause button for something truly epic – the momentous opportunities worthy of playback in years to come. I am glad my parents worked hard so the college loan didn’t swallow me whole. I am also glad they let me skip school to go kayaking with my brother and made Baskin Robbins for dinner a summer ritual.
The stoic lives to walk calmly through the present for the hope of a shining tomorrow. Keep calm and carry on. The epicurean lives for today because for all we know, it’s all we’ve got.
Here’s the deal that I’ve tried to strike with life: be both. Let the 80/20 rule follow you around and nestle into your everyday. Use that fancy new planner in 2018 most of the time, and then cut and run when necessary to keep the FOMO at bay. Keep bedtime on schedule on those cold winter school nights and then take the random weekend trip to the nearest roadside attraction. Find that biggest ball of yarn or best hot chicken or Lego Expo or lake view hike. Do the things that make you wish you could live out of a VW van for a few weeks a year. It’s not all-or-nothing here. That’s the point. You can plan for the future and also live in the present. Be a stoic and an epicurean. Your kids with thank you.