There is a song by Janet Jackson, featuring
Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell, titled “Got ’till it’s gone.” The chorus says:
“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone?”
It’s a song about a lady that is lamenting that she did not appreciate her man till he left. But as I listened to it I got to thinking how the message is so applicable to many of the everyday issues we encounter in life.
Life in the 21st century has taken on a hectic pace and it almost seems that things are accelerating such that the days are shorter but there is more to do. Everything seems to be on fast forward, including our lives and thinking.
There is little time for living in the moment, little time to stop and “smell the air.” There is little time to appreciate what you have and where you are in life. Until…it’s gone.
I mean, when you are young you are in a hurry to grow up and become an adult. When you are in secondary school you can’t wait to finish and get to college or university. You will be happy when you are there because you will have your freedom and do all the things you really want to do but cannot right now.
When you are at university or college you can’t wait to finish and get your first job. After all, when you have more money and a qualification you will definitely be happier and more content. You can live the life you want without worrying about money. When you finally get that first job you can’t wait to get a promotion or get a better job. Surely a little more money would be the answer to a happier and more fulfilled life?
Somewhere along the way you may get married, after all you’re so sick of being single. Then you are in a hurry to have children. When the children come you just can’t wait for them to grow up. As they grow up you can’t wait for them to be old enough to live on their own. Then you can have the whole house to yourself and hopefully more time to do the things you really want to do… and be happier.
Meanwhile your time is running out. But you keep thinking that life will get better when this or that happens. It’s like you are forever chasing the end of the rainbow and trying to find that elusive pot of gold.
Then one day, looking back, you realise something amazing, but also very saddening. You realise that your secondary school days were some of the best days you could have ever had – no responsibilities to speak of and all your needs met. All you had to do was study and do well at school. You should have enjoyed it more.
University or college was also a blast. Or at least it should have been. It was such an experience in growing up, meeting new people and trying new things. You had some real freedom back then. But you did not really enjoy it because you did not know it. You were too busy looking forward to finishing your studies and getting a job. You realise you did not utilise your opportunities very well back then. You could have enjoyed yourself more, made a few more friends and tried a few more challenging things. You should have cherished your single days more.
The kids, oh they were such a joy to have around the home. They brought such life and warmth to the place even though they could be a pain at times. Now it’s so quiet and empty. You wish they could come around more often. But they are also too busy chasing that pot of gold. They don’t realise you won’t be around forever. They will – when you are no longer there. Then they’ll think how they should have made more of the time they had with you.
“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone?” That is how life goes for a lot of us. But that has to stop. You have to stop that clock that is spiralling out of control. Take a step back from your life and think.
Think how good it is to be alive today, here and now. Think of all the things you have in your life that you need to be grateful for and appreciate more. Yes you have challenges, but so does everyone else. Even Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, has his challenges. They are just dressed up differently. Money will not make you stress free or happier.
Stop trying to change everything. If you wait for everything to be perfect before you can be happy you are in for a lot of disappointment. Acknowledge the flaws in your job, but celebrate and enjoy the good things about it. Acknowledge the flaws in your husband or wife, but appreciate and be happy about the good things about them. They will never be perfect. If you wait for them to be perfect before you can be happy you are in for a sad life.
In Ecclesiastes, which is probably one of the most discouraging books in the bible at first glance, the opening statement in reference to life is “all is vanity.” But several times the Preacher who wrote it says “Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?” That is wisdom indeed and the preacher says further that “every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.”
You cannot know what shall come in the future. Yes you will make your plans and be diligent, but not everything is in your control. You can only do so much. Therefore, enjoy what you have today, even as you plan for the future. The present is the only time that you have under your control. The past is gone. Cherish its memories and learn from its mistakes. The future is uncertain and you will never see it. You will only see now.
The most happiness you will ever have is yours today. You just have to decide to make it so. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“…man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.”
Live in the present. Don’t wait ’til it’s gone before you appreciate what you have.