Twenty Years From Now, Will I Be Disappointed?

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When I was in college, living in Paris, one of my favorite quotes was from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

It was easy for me to identify with this. I knew that when I was in my forties, I’d look back on those years in the City of Light with fondness. Some instinct told me the hard moments would fade and I’d remember those explorations with rose-colored memories. In some ways, it was a typical college experience—I encountered new perspectives and found my politics, theology, worldview, and old ideals shifting. I dug into the whys of my faith.

Exploration was part of life—from literally getting on a train to visit a new location to engaging with friends from different backgrounds and world views. This became a habit I held onto: Seeking out new information and ideas, either through books or over a meal with a new friend.

Fast-forward nearly 15 years and that quote doesn’t fill me with the same excitement any more. It fills me with nostalgia and wistfulness. The last time I traveled internationally was in 2011, before we even started trying to start a family. We’ve gone on adventures since then, yes, but they aren’t what I was imagining in my untethered early-twenties.

These days, you’ll find me at home in the suburbs, establishing healthy routines for our daughters and grappling with ways I can make a difference in my community through cultural interactions with our immigrant neighbors and by dipping my toes in the world of activism. Most often, life doesn’t feel glamorous or adventurous. It feels so very typical. When asked what I do, I most often shrug and say, I just stay home with the girls.

This isn’t the whole truth, but I never know how much a stranger really wants to know about all the ways I’m piecing together meaning in my own backyard. I still read a variety of books that challenge my thinking, my outlook, and my faith. I still seek out conversations and friendships with people who have lived different experiences, whether by choice or circumstance.

My husband and I were talking about this phase of life and parenting. I told him it’s a both-and feeling for me. I both wish we could travel and live a carefree life and I recognize the importance of tending our roots. I look at others in our same season and envy how easy it seems for them to travel and attend all the opportunities away from home and I recognize that I don’t want that right now, not really. It’s still too much juggling and coordinating to make it worth it for me.

When I look back on this season in twenty years, will I be disappointed in the things I didn’t do, as Mark Twain suggests? Will I wish we had packed up and lived in an exotic location? Or will I recognize that the things I did choose are what makes future adventure possible? By giving our girls a solid and safe foundation, will they feel more free to roam and explore? By waiting a few years for various experiences, will I recognize the importance of not taking them for granted?

I’ll be honest, this season of staying home is something I would never trade for the world. Experiencing my girls as they  discover their world is pretty amazing, even as most of their exploration takes place within a couple miles of our home. But it’s also one of the hardest and often loneliest times. I am surrounded by an incredible community, but a lot of days feel long and dull and I have trouble remembering the bigger picture.

Maybe I need to revisit this quote more often. To remember that, twenty years from now, I’ll look back on this time with new eyes and a fresh perspective. Those long days will become sweeter over time as a bigger picture is pieced together. I’ll remember the joy and exploration of being with my kids during this particular phase of their childhood, when finding a rollypoly in our yard is as exciting as any grand adventure. I’m learning to broaden my view of those compelling words, to create a culture of exploration right here at home.

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Annie Rim
I live in Colorado where I play with my daughters, hike with my husband, and write about life & faith. I have taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. I am honored to lead the Red Couch Book Club here at SheLoves. You can connect with me on Twitter & Instagram @annie_rim or on my blog: annierim.com.
Annie Rim

Comments

  1. I am just at the beginning of my motherhood journey with a baby kicking in my belly and not a lot of energy in my body. I look with fondness back at college days with rooammates and a wide open world. Thanks for this reminder to be prepared for this season with an open heart and open arms.

  2. Louise says:

    I find it hard to read this article. I’m 44 and would love to be a Mother but it looks like it probably won’t happen. I need a Christian husband first! Enjoy the mothering, it seems lovely but hard. Perhaps you can pray I know what God has for me and to deal with it if I’m never a mother to biological or adopted children. God has put lots of children around me. Thanks!

    • It’s so hard when life doesn’t go as expected, isn’t it? I hope you look back at this time in twenty years with fondness and hope!

  3. It’s so amazing to see life on the other side (where we often think the grass is greener, don’t we?) I live in an exotic location…and life is lonely and days are long and dull. And I spend my days wondering if in 20 years I will wish I’d given my kid a different foundation. Will I regret taking away dance and green spaces to play, family nearby? Thanks for this reminder to be present where we are and not always be yearning for the other life we imagine is easier. It’s not. May God bless your girls with a wide perspective, with deep roots, with wings.

    • Oh, Nicole. Such a reminder that life is life, no matter where on the map we do it. I love your blessing at the end and will remember this in those long moments… xo

  4. Staying at home with your children does have its lonely times. I’m glad you talk about that and the tension we can feel. You also share the bigger story which is creating the culture of exploration where you are. That’s what I need to remember going forward too. Thanks, Annie.

    • Each season has its challenges, right? And each season has big moments we look back on and know we’ve done well. Thanks for your encouragement!

  5. This is so important to remember, especially when my life seems to be not the least bit as exciting as I pictured it when I was younger. I also compare it with people who pack their young families up and go on adventures around the world or across the country and that’s never been our reality. But in the end, I think that I will not be disappointed. We’ve almost reached the 20 year mark on the early years, pretty soon I’ll be sending my oldest off to college and I am not disappointed in the years we’ve spent. How can I be disappointed, when somehow this child I raised is turning into such an amazing person?

    • I love hearing your perspective! I know these little years will be over in a flash (our youngest starts preschool next year…) and I’ll look back knowing we made a good choice. How amazing to see your kids all grown up – what a change in your relationship!

  6. Emerging from the other end of the tunnel you are in right now, I will confess to mixed feelings. I am very well aware that I scuttled my resume twenty five years ago, and there are days when I wonder if I will ever again be employable. The writing and studying still take a back seat to life management for a crew of big guys who somehow have taken over the bedrooms where the little guys used to sleep. Having said that, I’m not “disappointed,” and I don’t think you will be either. It’s an alien algebra that writes the equation for a stay-at-home parent’s success story, but the key variable is relationship, and I wouldn’t trade anything for the bond that’s been forged over these long days and short years of mothering by the seat of my pants.

    • Oh, thank you for your honesty Michele. I think all of those other unknowns add that stress – will I go back to work? What will that look like? How will we balance everything? Of course, as life changes, we adapt and adjust but it’s hard. Mothering by the seat of my pants… Definitely the right phrase!

  7. I remember this season of mothering. I stayed home and it was hard, but I am grateful I could. Thank you for being honest.

    • This is why I love knowing women who are ahead of me on this journey – it’s hard, yes. But it’s so good to have perspective!

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