I wish I could say that I have lived my life without regrets. I wish I could say that I've always tried my hardest to make sure that when I got older I wouldn't be able to look back and say, "I wish I had done that differently." I wish I could say I always paid close attention to mundane details of everyday life, and I wish I could say that I know for certain what the roses smell like. Truth is, I can't say any of those things.
It's so easy as an adult to look back on one's childhood and assuredly comment on how easy things were. While I am almost certain my childhood was generally happy and worry-free, it's unfair for the 31-year-old version of me to sell my 9-year-old self so short. Sure, a 9-year-old's struggles are mostly laughably minor to an adult, but when you're the kid living it, there are truly life-and-death scenarios faced on a daily basis. Now that I'm grown, I don't recall many of those everyday struggles I faced as a child. But I do remember always hoping and wishing to be older, so I could do whatever I wanted, so I wouldn't have to worry about those things anymore. So that life would be so much easier. The grass is greener, and all that.
If I could sit and talk to the kid version of me, I honestly can't think of all the things I'd tell myself. But, despite the cliche nature of it, I'd implore myself to live life in the moment. I'd plead with me to realize that life and time are so precious. I'd exhort myself to stop wishing away the time. All those amazing things we so earnestly look forward to almost invariably fail to meet expectations, and the ones that do are always worth the wait.
"Enjoy the wait!" I'd scream at the top of my lungs. Don't kid yourself into thinking that when you get to "that point" (whatever "that point" may be) you'll slow down and appreciate things more, I'd tell me. You won't. You'll be there, realize it wasn't what you hoped it'd be, and you'll go right back to wishing you were some other place or some other time. I'd preach to myself to enjoy the journey. I'd beseech myself to soak up every minute detail of every day. All the sorrow. All the joy. All the heartbreak. All the laughter. All the love. All the misery. All the boredom. All the loneliness. All the thrills. All. Of. It.
If I were able to tell the kid me all those things, maybe I wouldn't be sitting here wondering where the hell the last year went. Maybe I would have listened to me. Maybe I would have recognized all that stuff long ago, so by the time I was here, with my baby girl turning one, I'd be far more experienced at paying attention to every single second of every single day. Maybe it wouldn't have taken her being born for me to realize just how fleeting time is.
If Adrienne and I had a nickle for every time we've said, "Just look at her," during the last year, we'd be able to retire today and put her through college two or three times. Admittedly, I failed to see the significance of everyday occurrences before Charlotte Claire was born. I always felt like I had all the time in the world. I took a lot of things for granted. Without even trying, without even knowing she was doing it, Charlotte taught me that. She taught me to stop. She taught me to wrap my memory around every second of every day. Every smell, every giggle, every belly-laugh, every stumbling step and fall, every squeal of joy, every cry, every indecipherable word, every smile, every happy hand clap, every 2:00 AM party, every wave bye-bye, every horsey ride and patty-cake, every hot dog dance and look in the mirror...All of it. If I could sit and talk to the kid version of me, I'd already know to pay attention to where all the time goes. Since I can't, it took Charlotte Claire to make me understand.
A year used to feel like a long time. It doesn't anymore. The past year has been a conundrum for me. It's gone by in what seems like the blink of an eye, but has also felt like an entire lifetime in itself. I obviously can remember my life before Charlotte came along, but I feel totally disconnected from it. Instead of seeing memories, I feel like I'm watching a movie of my life, starring someone that looks like me. It's all familiar and resembles the true story, but something is missing...Something's just not quite right.
If I could sit and talk to the kid version of me, I'd tell me to live life in the moment. So that when Charlotte Claire came along, I'd be far better at paying attention and filing away the memories. If I were able to talk to the younger me, maybe my biggest fear as I write this wouldn't be forgetting something that happened yesterday, or today, or last week...Some little thing that is the best thing in the world right now. Maybe I'd be so versed in the Art of Now, I wouldn't have so many forgotten memories. Maybe I wouldn't have so many regrets.
Maybe I wouldn't have learned so much this year.
Happy Birthday, Charlotte Claire. I love you more than I'll ever be able to tell you.