Throughout our entire lives we seem to be looking forward to the next milestone. When we are children, we can’t wait until we can drive a car. When we are in school, we look forward to graduation, finding a career, getting married and then starting a family. Soon we long for the day when all our kids are potty-trained, then old enough to babysit themselves, and finally when they all have left the nest. We then look forward to grandchildren. With all of those events in my own rearview mirror, I now can’t wait until retirement and my next phase of life. It is important to our happiness to have something to look forward to – and strive for – but sometimes we are so focused on the next milestone that we forget to slow down and just enjoy where we are for a while. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We are always getting ready to live, but never living.”
A timeless movie for high school students of every generation is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off*, in which high school student Ferris decides it’s time (again) to take a day off from school despite what his parents, teachers or especially his school principal might think about that. Looking back to my high school days, I now wish I had had the guts to skip a day of school, although I admit I never wanted my kids to do the same; I didn’t want them to be irresponsible. But maybe it’s irresponsible for us not to occasionally take a day off school, work or whatever else is stressing us out and just enjoy ourselves for a day. Here’s Ferris’ philosophy, and it’s a good one, at least this part: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Life really does move fast. We have endless lists of things to do, for ourselves and for our kids. We are bombarded by social media on every side. And if we aren’t actually accomplishing goal after goal after goal, we are often looked upon by others as failures. All lives of every generation have stress, but I find it hard to believe that prior generations experienced the stressful lives we face today. And it will only get worse in the future as continued advances in technology make life that much faster.
How can we stop (or at least slow down) and look around once in a while so we don’t miss life? The Great Outdoors** came out just a couple of years after Ferris. In my favorite scene, Chet Ripley (John Candy) has brought his family to a lakeside resort for a vacation. His brother-in-law, Roman Craig (Dan Aykroyd), drops in unexpectedly. While sitting on the porch of the cabin, Ripley and Craig have this great conversation:
Too often we are like Roman Craig. We see something only as what it could (or should?) someday become rather than just seeing something just for what it is – in this case trees. How do we slow life down and notice the little things that make life more worthwhile? Here are some simple suggestions:
- Eat dinner together with the family around the table instead of in front of the TV.
- Remember important dates like birthdays, anniversaries and graduations.
- Unplug from the world of social media for at least an hour or two a day.
- Learn to mediate.
- Listen to water at the beach, a river, or the waterfall in your own swimming pool.
- Focus on the sound and feel of a simple daily routine like brushing your teeth.
- Change up your daily routine like taking a different way home from work.
- Take a road trip without any itinerary and just see where you end up.
- Do random acts of kindness.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
Speaking of gratitude, here is the fun Thanksgiving dinner scene from Funny People*** that reminds us to both be grateful and enjoy the moment.
There is no time like the present, for these are the good old days the next generation will hear so much about. So let’s enjoy them – now!
*Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Production: Paramount Pictures
Director: John Hughes
Screenplay: John Hughes
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck and Mia Sara
Release Date: June 11, 1986
**The Great Outdoors
Production:Hughes Entertainment and Universal Pictures
Directed: Howard Deutch
Screenplay: John Hughes
Starring: John Candy, Dan Aykroyd and Stephanie Faracy
Release Date: June 17, 1988
Production: Universal Studios and Columbia Pictures
Directed: Judd Apatow
Screenplay: Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann
Release date: July 31, 2009