On the way to work one morning, I was listening to one of my favorite songs at a decibel that bordered on uncomfortable (one of the luxuries of driving without the children).
The song: John Mellencamp's Jack and Diane.
Love that song.
I was singing/screaming along, lost in the happy nostalgic revelry that usually accompanies songs from my childhood. Then I paid attention to the lyrics in the chorus:
"Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone..."
And I thought, that's kind of depressing.
Then the bridge:
"...hold onto 16 as long as you can, changes come around real soon, make us women and men."
That's kind of depressing too.
The gist of it is an adage as old as the hills:
Youth is squandered on the young.
George Bernard Shaw said something like that, as I'm sure a thousand others have. Because when we get to a certain age, we start pining for our youth. The carelessness and freedom of it. The spontaneity and passion it held. The endless opportunities it offered.
And a lot of us mourn that lost or squandered youth.
Sometimes I do.
I had an incredible childhood and a passionate and exciting young adulthood. I took chances and made many mistakes and learned and laughed and cried and loved and learned some more...I lived. Sometimes I daydream about those days, about that freedom.
But most days I just thank God for the here and now. My best days are not behind me. They are today and tomorrow.
I'm still living - really living. I'm just doing it a little less flashy now. I might not be traveling the world or working in some high-powered field. I might not be living in a mansion or wearing the trendiest fashions.
I might be average. Normal. Everything I was SO against becoming when I was younger. After all, I'm a wife and mother and secretary. If the then me would see that, she would cringe. She would think I settled.
Because she wouldn't see that, while I may be normal and average, I'm full of joy. Pure, sent down from heaven, gratitude oozing, joy. I haven't settled to be a wife, mother and secretary. I've triumphed to become them.
She wouldn't see that I am one of the few people who is in a truly healthy, happy and passionate marriage. She wouldn't see that my children fill me so full of life and love that it humbles me. She wouldn't see that though my job is just a job, a means to an end; I'm blessed by it and to be paid well and to work with people I love who are very good to me.
None of it is perfect. It's all very hard work. But it's rewarding work. And the reward is this wonderful joy.
I guess the definitions of success and living have changed somewhere along the line. I learned that success isn't built on money or status or notoriety. Success is built on relationships of every kind and honoring those relationships with trust and loyalty and faith.
And I learned that maybe living isn't as thrilling as an adult. But that if I'm grateful for what I have, learn from my mistakes, try my hardest, and do good; it can be so much more than thrilling. It can be meaningful and relevant.
So that's what I got from the great philosopher, John Mellencamp, and his song Jack and Diane. An epiphany about life. Go figure.