It really is amazing how our priorities change as we navigate the various stages of development in life. When we were babies, our main priorities were keeping our bodies warm, getting milk or formula into our bodies, and staying close to mother so she could protect us and keep us safe. When we were two, we wanted to become our own person and make all the decisions important to us. When we were three, we wanted to do things our way, initiate activities. When we grew old enough to go outdoors and hang with kids from the neighborhood, our priority was to play, to find out who we were in our connections with others. After that, we focused on being productive, doing ok in school, and finding some way to distinguish ourselves from the rest of those around us. In junior high, we focused on making sense of our bodies, our thoughts, our emotions, our sexual identity, and exploring our connections with others. As time passed, our focus changed to finding or creating plans for the future: finding a job to meet the needs we felt were important to us., deciding on a career for ourselves, establishing our own identity separate from our parents and friends.
In our twenties, we focused on having fun, improving our work-related skills, finding someone to love and be loved by, solidifying who we believed ourselves to be, and finding friends to socialize with. We learned more about intimacy and the sacrifices it demanded from us. We focused on whether to have children or to invest more in our careers. In our thirties, we narrowed our priorities down to making money, establishing a name for ourselves in a career, and meeting the needs of family.
In our forties and fifties, we focused on just surviving from the mistakes we made, the disappointments that came from loving too much and too little. We learned that children separated from us and made their own way into the world, and sometimes we were left in their excitement to make their mark in life.
In our sixties, we focused on surviving all the losses that had accumulated over the years. We found that children move, sometimes far away, and that careers don’t last forever, and that we were not as irreplaceable as we had thought. We focused on surviving the loss of a job, a routine, our emotional needs being met in a career we loved. We learned that death comes, old age happens to us, and serious illness can become a reality. We learned that friends die, even the ones we thought would live forever.
As we grow older, we realize that we wasted so much time on priorities. In our youth, we failed to see what really matters. Careers end. Jobs don’t last forever. Success and looks fade. Status and money can be lost in a day. Homes can be foreclosed upon and good health can change in a moment. It is when, the people we love the most die, that the light comes on and enlightenment occurs. We live and we die for people. What really matters is “who our hearts beat for.” The people we connect with is what matters in this world. People we share stories with, share our innermost thoughts and dreams with, and people who touch our hearts and hands with love. As we age, our memories are filled with people we have loved. When we die, our last thoughts will be of those who gave to us and cared for us. People, really do matter.