My 45th birthday is just around the corner. 45 feels more like midlife to me than 40 did. I look back at myself at 40 and think, “Oh, kid, what you don’t know.” I’m sure when I’m 50 I’ll look back at myself at 45 and think the exact same thing.
I hope to live until I’m at least 90. I hope to be healthy in mind and body when I get there. But even if I’m not, I hope to have one thing still.
I believe it is the most important thing.
The older I get, the more I realize that the most important thing in the world is having the freedom to choose what I do with my time.
It’s not just having time that matters. It’s having the power to do what you want with it. I could be locked in a cell like nearly 2.3 million other Americans. Having time can be torture if you’re not allowed to do what you want with it, if every minute of every hour is dictated by someone who has power over you.
With every day and every week and every year that ticks by, I’m realizing more and more that if I don’t take control over how I use my time, someone else will. And I will be living someone else’s life, not my own.
I don’t want to sleep walk through life. When I pop off at 90 or later, I want to know, and feel down in my bones, that I lived the best life I could possibly live with the time that I had.
I want to feel good about moving from living on this Earth to entering the next stage of existence (or non-existence, depending on what you believe). Even if I flip the Grim Reaper the bird on my way out, I want to feel good about it, not bitter, and maybe even skip as I exit The Building of Life.
So, how am I going to do that?
First, I need to start with what I say and think.
I say and think all the time, “I’ll do that when I have more time.”
But the thing is, I never have more time.
That’s the rub.
There never is more time.
For argument’s sake, let’s say there is more time in the future. Even if there is–say I wait until I retire at 67 to do what I’ve always wanted to do–I may have more time but not the body, mind, or energy to do what I want to do. That would really suck. But I think it happens to a lot of people.
So instead of saying, “I’ll do that when I have more time,” I’m trying to change what I say to, “I’m not going to spend time on that. I’m choosing to do this with my time.”
It makes me own up to what I’m saying and doing. Saying it this way reminds me that I’m choosing to not spend time on that thing, whatever that thing is, and it’s a reminder that I am choosing to do whatever I am doing at that moment in time.
I have the power to choose.
I am choosing to write this blog post instead of binge-watch shows on Netflix.
I am choosing to schedule get togethers and appointments after 1pm because the time from 6am-noon is crucial to my creativity, so I protect it.
I am choosing to live frugally so that I can write my novel.
Once I recognize and acknowledge that I have choice, that I’m making choices, even if they’re choices that I dislike, then I’m living the life I want to live right now. Not later or next year, but right now.
In this crazy, busy, mixed-up world, most of us can choose to choose. Not everyone can. I recognize that. But most of us can.
We can choose to realize that we are choosing to do every little thing of every minute of every day. Even when we think we have no power, just stopping and realizing that we are choosing to do what we’re doing RIGHT NOW is power identified.
So, as I get ready to blow out 45 candles (someone get the fire extinguisher!) on Monday, I want to remember this on the days that aren’t filled with flowers and well wishes. On the days when I’m full of fear, darkness, sadness, frustration, loathing, and/or hatred, or am facing days of tragedy or difficulty, I hope I can stop and remember this.
I have the power to choose.
That is enough.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle.