It was a beautiful, sunny morning, and I was on vacation. I jumped into the hotel swimming pool ready to do some serious laps. The water was clean and cool, a shimmering reflection of the bright, blue, cloudless sky.
I began swimming, thoroughly enjoying the slight resistance of the water as I slid through. When I reached the other side, there was a young girl, no older than eight I’d guess, hanging onto the tiled edge of the pool. Just treading water on her own and not paying the slightest attention to me. I didn’t miss a beat and turned around and began another lap. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke.
My mind drifted to a time when I was a young girl. I could never have imagined all that stretched out before me in the life that lay ahead. My adventures and travels, the struggles and travails and uncertainties, lovers and fiercely passionate loves, careers and marriage and motherhood. The various mantles we wear as we weave through the passage of the time of our life.
I reached the girl’s side of the pool again. She lazily kicked at the water while gazing out at the horizon, lost in thought, not a care in the world. Prepubescent and completely unaware of the choices and decisions ahead which will shape the course of her life.
It is strange, isn’t it, growing older? We lose those we love; we watch our own body and health change; we notice our options shift. A wise, older friend once told me, “We spend the first half of our lives acquiring things, and we spend the second half letting them go.”
I think of that young girl with nothing but a blank canvas before her, while mine is covered with the paint of life’s rich experiences. To be sure, there is still some blank canvas left and a full set of hues on my palette. I want to use my brush to paint broad strokes on the canvas I have left, to splash on the color with wild abandon. I want that canvas to be sloppy with gooey paint that jumps forth in bold colors. I’m not yet ready to sign my name in the lower right corner, but when I do, I hope my canvas will be so full that there will be no reason to add, nor room for, any more paint.
I wish the same for that young girl I saw that bright sunny day in the pool. I wish that her young life will be full and happy. That she will have equity and fairness in the workplace, and the possibility to thrive and reach her potential as a person and as a woman.
And, above all, I wish her love. I hope that she will be lucky enough to find true love. For love, it seems to me, is the engine that makes all else possible.
Susanne Severeid can be reached at email@example.com.