River Gulls and the Misconception of Milestones
On cold winter days, she used to beg her father to take her to the Mississippi river's edge. She loved the way the cold wind felt on her pale, wind-flushed cheeks. She marveled at the sheets of ice that would give the fearless little girl the urge to jump on and see where the river would take her, but most of all, that little girl loved the gulls. She enjoyed watching them fly above her head, and the sounds always made her giggle in delight- so many squawks. She also adored feeding them the stale bread from their pantry. The way they skimmed the water to grab the soggy piece of discarded food, the way they would fight each other for alternating bites. She used to give them names and pretend that they were a gigantic family who relied on her and daddy to feed them in the winter. A family who cherished her as much as she did them. Her father would watch, in what would be assumed pleasure, as the little girl displayed raw, open joy by something so easy, so natural.
That little girl has since grown up, married, graduated college and obtained a good paying job that she also happens to love. She is currently on a quest to complete a graduate program in the coming years.
All of the societal milestones have been met (minus that, 'creating another human being' thing).
That twenty-something-year-old reflected on that distant memory, and it made her somewhat sad. Not because she had lost her father eight years previous. Not because she now has to deal with the mundane territory that comes with the majority of the working adult's life. But because that memory meant so much more to her than any accolade she had ever received or milestone she had ever met. She began to reflect more on this feeling of Mississippi River melancholy and realized that those, natural, unvarnished moments- the ones that require very little effort, are often the most treasured.
She has worked her ass off and possesses a great resume to showcase her drive and work ethic . She also plans to do great, big, beautiful things in her lifetime. She just happened to realize that milestones are unimportant when small, joyful moments mean so much more. So rather than focusing and trying to rationalize her million thoughts that occur when she is sad, she focused on what was behind the feeling and drew her awareness to it. No judgment, not trying to change and or rationalize the whys, (very difficult for a logical, empirical woman). She just sat with it.
She decided that if she must have milestones—hers must be measured by how much joy she has collected at the end of each day and how often in this life she has truly, deeply, opened.