Time is an enormous, long river, and I’m standing in it, just as you’re standing in it. My elders are the tributaries, and everything they thought and every struggle they went through and everything they gave their lives to, and every song they created, and every poem that they laid down flows down to me… – Utah Phillips
Have you ever wondered, as the years slip by, if you are doing well?
Doing well compared to others, compared to the dreams you had, or where you feel you should be at this point in your life?
If you were a river, how wide should you be right now?
Let’s imagine someone who knew from the beginning they wanted to be rich – and they had a number in mind – a big one.
What happens once they reach that number?
Do they stop and start doing something else – horticulture, perhaps?
Or do they set a new, higher number and go after that?
Is chasing a number a good way to live?
Most of us don’t really know – because we haven’t hit those kinds of numbers.
We are where we area right now.
And we’ll be doing better than some and worse than some.
But, if you’re reading this, the chances are that you’re one of the luckier people out there.
But that should cause you to wonder how you got there.
We like to think we start with nothing – we’re a tiny trickle, a barely visible stream at the start of a journey.
And, over time, we are joined by tributaries – the waters that help us grow – waters carrying education, careers, partners, children.
If we look at where we once were, we might be pleased to see the extra bulk we’re carrying around.
Or we might wonder whether life was simpler as a small stream rather than this unstoppable dash for the sea.
Or maybe we count up the tributaries so far and wonder how many more will join us before we reach the end.
There are two things to notice here.
One is that we don’t wake up one day and find that we’ve turned from a stream into a river.
It takes time and distance.
The second is that what builds us is not what we started with but what new tributaries we add.
And that’s why standing in one place and looking at what you are is perhaps not the best thing to do.
A better thing might be to be grateful – grateful to the people who put you where you are – if you were lucky enough to have parents and grandparents or carers who, by the way they lived their lives, enabled you to live yours.
Or maybe you did start entirely on your own – and have clawed and fought your way to where you are.
Then you should probably look forward – and do the things that need to be done.
It seems to me that if you look back – you should look with gratitude.
If you look forward – you should look with hope.
But wherever you are – whether at the start or the end, whether little or large, you should judge yourself kindly.
And count yourself lucky to be here.