When we are in elementary school, we want to be in our thirties or forties (though we don't quite know the ages for certain, yet). We want to be like our parents, and teachers, and the people we love and look up to.
When we are in middle school, we want to be like our older siblings, high schoolers, people just a few years older who are allowed to stay up late and watch whatever movies they want.
When we are in high school we want to be in college. Where we don't have to go to sleep at all. Where we can quite literally do whatever we want, eat whatever we want, drink whatever we want, forge our own paths.
When we are in college, we want to start a career or a company, we want to make our own money, spend that money, have an apartment in the city, travel.
Throughout our twenties we want to be in middle school or high school, where work was "homework" and not something you did to make it to the weekend. We idealize the lack of responsibilities and bills in our previous life, we wistfully reflect on the time when we had time to figure everything out.
Throughout our thirties we want to be in our twenties, when all of our friends lived in adjacent dorms, when it was OK to take big professional and personal risks, because there wasn't anything to lose yet.
Throughout our forties we want to be in elementary school. We watch our children grow up and we watch what it means to behold something for the first time. We remember what it means to truly wonder. We have midlife crises, and we want to start all over, now that we know so much more about how life works.
Throughout our fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and, God-willing, hundreds, we want to be in our tens, twenties and thirties, when our bodies were more limber, when the world of possibilities lay sprawling before us. We tell any college-aged kid who will listen that "this is the best time of your life, kid." Whether or not we regret our the decisions and indecisions of our youth, we wish we had known how good youth was when we had it.
We spend all of our lives hankering after another age, another occupation, location, set of circumstances. At first we look forward toward possibility and freedom and then backwards towards opportunities mishandled. Only in those rare blissful instances where we are totally present and grateful, when everything comes perfectly together, do we acknowledge that now is the best time of our lives. We rarely remember that it is always now.
What if, at every station, during every season, we were completely present? Completely gratified. What if we were able to believe it when our elders told us "this is the best time of your life, kid." Whether we are told this at age 13, 25, 38, 56 -- it is always true, if we permit ourselves to believe it.
Author Matt Richardson is the co-founder of Gramr Gratitude Co. Gramr provides a subscription service for beautiful and original thank-you notes, their goal is to start a movement for gratitude and grateful living -- learn more about their vision of a more grateful world here.