I distinctly remember being in the 5th grade and saying:
“Just 7 more years until I graduate. Then it’s college and dolphin training. Hang in there Bryan, it’s just 7 more years.”
I wanted to be free of the bullying and I wanted my dream job, so I wished for time to tick by faster. I was young and time was wasted on me worrying to get away into my future. What I wasn’t aware of (or blissfully ignorant about) was that the future always brings both the better and bereaved days.
The young don’t realize the Ying and Yang of joy and grief is inevitable. I never slowed down to live in the moment because I was always placing the greatest moments ahead of me. I can’t wait for later, tomorrow, next week, next month, the next vacation, next holidays, when I don’t have to work so hard but until then I’ll just keep thinking of “the then” not “the now”. That’s an exhausting way to live. Here I am a few months from 44 but how did I get here so fast?
I rushed all that time to become an animal caregiver and after 23 years, tomorrow is my last day. I spent so much of my life dedicated to achieving my “dream job” that I forgot to live the other parts of life. I can honestly say that this decision is entirely driven by my losses at such an early age. I was only 38 when my father passed away. I was widowed just 10 months later and ever since those losses, I tried to understand who I am. My career in animal care has always defined me and was the only thing that I thought made me valuable to everyone, including myself.
“You have the best job.”
“This is my friend. He works with penguins.”
“You’re that aquarium guy.”
The past year has brought me immense blessings, a chance to realize I’m more than my job. Life is not supposed to be a chase, it’s supposed to be an experience. I know that there will be a grieving period not having those animals in my life daily but at the end of my life I won’t be surrounded by the penguins I’ve raised. I’ll long to have just one moment more with all the people I’ve loved.
My widowed wisdom is yet again showing a gift grown from my grief – a true awareness of who I am and how I want to live the rest of my life. I am more than the guy who takes care of animals. I am a fiancé, a brother, an uncle, a son, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, a shoulder to cry on, a dancer, a bad joke teller, a kind person, authentic, honest, full of hope and happiness.
Time doesn’t wait for anyone, and our days are numbered but I’m done wishing for the future to show up faster because the future holds both joys and grief. I’m just grateful that I’ve learned what I know now – Stop Rushing Towards The Grief.