Life After Now

When you get to my age and most of your best years are behind you instead of ahead of you… it is a lit­tle eas­i­er to both appre­ci­ate what you have and to regret what you will nev­er have again.

—Michael on Randomness and Disconnection

In this cul­ture, we’re bred to believe that every step of our lives will affect the next one with dire con­se­quences. If you don’t choose the right class­es in grade 10, you’ll be stuck in some­thing you don’t like in grade 11, and end up scor­ing poor­ly. If you score poor­ly in grade 11, you’ll lim­it your options for grade 12. If you don’t have the right class­es in grade 12, you’ll have few­er uni­ver­si­ties from which to choose. So on and so on, until the C+ you got in his­to­ry class means you’ll be mow­ing lawns for the rest of your life.

Maybe this is why I always feel like it’s too late.

I wish I nev­er stopped learn­ing piano, so I could have anoth­er medi­um to express myself. I wish I grew up learn­ing Tai Chi, so it’d be more nat­ur­al to me. I wish I bought a house soon­er, so I could have cap­i­tal­ized on amor­ti­za­tion in the ris­ing hous­ing mar­ket. I wish I had start­ed con­tribut­ing to my RRSPs at a younger age, so I could retire at the age I want. I wish I paid more atten­tion in French class, so I could still use it as a lan­guage. I wish I had gone to ther­a­py ear­li­er, so I would­n’t have messed up the rela­tion­ships that mat­tered.

All these sit­u­a­tions where I feel like I’m too old and passed the point where I can achieve some­thing effi­cient­ly, or max­i­mize my gains.

But then I see how hap­py some peo­ple are, who are twice my age, and haven’t planned for retire­ment yet. Or some who still live in an apart­ment, with­out a house or car for equi­ty. Some are new­ly sin­gle at fifty, and dat­ing, and hap­pi­er than they’ve ever been (and here I am, think­ing that I’ll be sin­gle for the rest of my life because every­one my age is already mar­ried). Even Lloyd, who just obtained his doc­tor­ate last year at 36, told me that one’s skills can take them any­where, and that age is nev­er a mat­ter. I’m not sure if I believe that yet, but I’d sure like to.

It all makes me won­der: is it real­ly too late? Are my best years real­ly behind me?

Perhaps they’re not.


  1. Catch the movie Harold and Maude if you haven’t to get more per­spec­tives on age and how much time is worth­while.

  2. How fun­ny it is that you blogged on this par­tic­u­lar sub­ject. Its been on my mind for the past few months as well. I am now find­ing myself in the sit­u­a­tion of get­ting ready to begin life again at the age of 34. I have been mar­ried and had chil­dren, divorced and forced to move back in with my moth­er only to leave her to live with some­one else. I have final­ly reached the con­clu­sion that its time for me to take care of myself and not rely on oth­ers to catch me when I fall. I now feel like I should have felt at 18 when I walked out the door of my moth­ers house. Its scary and excit­ing and I’m begin­ning to believe the say­ing that life begins at 30. Took me a few years to get here but I’m get­ting there. Its all in how you look at things.

  3. Wishes from the past are just ugly regrets in a pret­ty pack­age. Regrets, and I have many, are scary things to put on paper. They lie there, star­ing you in the face in all their lines and rows and scream of lost oppor­tu­ni­ty. They’re there to flip back to, reread, ago­nize and obsess over. Be care­ful. They’ll con­sume you.

  4. @Pearl — I’ve always want­ed to see that movie! I found out about it from my wikipedia trav­els one day. It’s on my list.

    @Lucy — And I think to myself, “If some­one can pick up and start over at 30, being through divorce and kids, I have noth­ing to com­plain about”. I’m slow­ly dis­cov­er­ing how true is the apho­rism “Life is what you make it”. Scary and excit­ing in those sit­u­a­tions must be delight­ful, a true sign that you get to start over.

    @Jayme — Perhaps a dis­tinc­tion can be made between wish­es and regrets. I gen­er­al­ly don’t regret things, since I make the best deci­sion for the time, but I cer­tain­ly wish I was smart enough to know the right thing to do. Definitely a fine line when it comes to the past. In either case, you’re right in say­ing that they’re scary things to put on paper.

  5. Hiya Jeff! I’m not cer­tain but what I usu­al­ly say is that the skills one devel­ops through life can be tak­en any­where. In oth­er words no one can take your expe­ri­ences or skills away from you. My PhD won’t take me any­where, if any­thing its a big piece of lead in some ways but I would not, could not have avoid­ed the process­es and no one can take that away. Your tal­ents are yours for all that entails. Someone once told me we are the sum total of our actions and inac­tions (I would expand that to include psy­cho­log­i­cal expe­ri­ences too). Sounds about right to me.

  6. I’m going through a very dif­fi­cult and emo­tion­al time right now, and I am also rehash­ing the thought that my best years are gone…that I should have done this grad school, tried hard­er with this guy, done this that and the oth­er.

    Recently I saw a movie where a char­ac­ter says “for­tu­nate­ly, we are not mar­ried to our past.”

    So the past is past, learn from that, and know that you may not have this blog that inspires, lifts, engages and invig­o­rates peo­ple if you had tak­en the piano. You may have been a mama’s boy if your fam­i­ly life were dif­fer­ent. Who knows? But you’re not mar­ried to your past. So there you go.

    And you’re not even thir­ty yet, so what’s this oldy old­ness talk? Old is when you’re grumpy and unwill­ing and unable to accept change. Eff that Ess.

  7. @Lloyd — Hmmm…I think I inter­pret­ed your words dif­fer­ent­ly when I first heard them. Doesn’t mean they’re any less true though. I’m left won­der­ing what the sig­nif­i­cance of my expe­ri­ences and skills are at the moment, and if they make my life bet­ter at the moment.

    The fact that you qual­i­fy “expe­ri­ences” with the word “psy­cho­log­i­cal” reveals the lev­el of your scholas­tic back­ground. :)

    @ZairaYou’re dead right…instead of focus­ing on what I’m miss­ing or what I should have done, I should be focus­ing on what I’ve been able to achieve already, which prob­a­bly would­n’t be pos­si­ble had I not made those choic­es I did.

    Perhaps age is more of a state-of-mind than I first real­ized. Thanks for help­ing me see this.

  8. It all makes me won­der: is it real­ly too late? Are my best years real­ly behind me?

    Perhaps they’re not.

    I’d like to cor­rect you by say­ing: Really, not.

    Anything I read of you, any­thing I see of you (your art, your work, your words in which you reveal your heart), has ever been less than the last piece of you I’ve read or seen. I have only been fol­low­ing you for a lit­tle bit now, but I know that you are amaz­ing and love­ly and have been grow­ing and pro­gress­ing even more into a won­der­ful per­son.

    So quit it, the whole doubt thing. Doubt sucks.

  9. I meant “NEVER BEEN”… rather than “ever been.”

  10. NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Your best years are not behind you, if you make the com­mitt­ment to your­self to live your best life pos­si­ble. I am a sin­gle woman at 39 years of age, nev­er mar­ried (I was engaged when I was 23), no chil­dren, and I am final­ly start­ing to redis­cov­er who I real­ly am. I am now vow­ing to do things in my life that I put off when I was younger because the man (men) with whom I was involved did­n’t want the same things as me: I have been hik­ing in Scotland for 2 years in a row (LOVE it), my goal is to live in France for 6–12 months to improve my French, and once again I am con­tem­plat­ing anoth­er career change. The things I regret are the things I nev­er took the chance to do, but I am doing them now so it does­n’t mat­ter. I hope I meet Mr. Right, and own my own home soon, but I am not judg­ing my “progress” in life based on what I should “have” or “be” at 39. I am far more inter­est­ing and well trav­eled than most of my peers, and that is real­ly what is impor­tant to me.

    Find the real you, learn (read: redis­cov­er) the essence of what makes you hap­py, and take it from there. Listen to your intu­ition and real­ize that you are exact­ly where you need to be — and that’s ask­ing ques­tions and re-eval­u­at­ing. Have fun, for God’s sake, and enjoy where you are right now.

  11. @Maeko — I would say that I had very lit­tle doubt before, but about the fact that things were too late. But now that I’ve read the things that peo­ple have said (includ­ing you), the doubt is in my mind, and this doubt is a very good thing.

    @SpiritBeautifulRevolution — What you said that most sticks out in my mind is “The things I regret are the things I nev­er took the chance to do, but I am doing them now so it does­n’t mat­ter”. This is a great way to live, and a great atti­tude to have. I should try to to and have the same.

  12. Darling! Your life has already gone so much bet­ter than mine. Don’t be sil­ly. You’re very much on the way to a hap­py exis­tence. Never fear, because you con­stant­ly check your­self, which is good.

    It’s usu­al­ly those un-self-aware ones who run hasti­ly through dai­ly non­sense with­out think­ing at end up at the end with a big ques­tion­mark they’ve been stuff­ing behind their backs all their lives — those are the ones with prob­lems in lat­er years. They may have had their achieve­ments in place, but it does­n’t mean they are hap­py.

    I did my best to catch hap­pi­ness but neglect­ed the mate­r­i­al aspects of life. Now I’m pay­ing dues for that, but I’ve no regrets as to my actions except for being a bit too stu­pid here and there. If I had to make the choic­es again, would I have built a mate­r­i­al empire at the expense of hap­pi­ness? Never!.

  13. I sup­pose that in say­ing that my life has already gone bet­ter than yours, it could also get worse, but that’s the cyn­i­cal way of look­ing at it. Over-think­ing has cer­tain­ly giv­en me more to wor­ry about, but self-aware­ness at the same time. Perhaps all that one should real­ly gain from over-think­ing is the sat­is­fac­tion that one makes the right deci­sions at the time with the infor­ma­tion giv­en, instead of regret­ting not think­ing before act­ing.

    It’s inter­est­ing that you weigh mate­r­i­al vs. hap­pi­ness. The con­sumerist nature of today’s soci­ety makes material=happiness. Certainly hap­pi­ness is more impor­tant, even if it’s with­out mate­r­i­al goods.

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