Some time ago, Jamie wrote a post about mothers who are certain they’ll look back on the time with their children as the happiest in their lives.
Whilst I might have a counter to that – that mothers probably feel they have to say that or the world will judge them harshly, and that it is also probably the most stressful time of their lives (when I think about mothers I know, or follow) – I guess mothers do, in general, look back on the time with their children and remember the good times, and their love for the children.
“What do childless people look back on?” Jamie wondered. (Apologies to Jamie – I can’t find the post right now).
I thought that was a good question, and – given my advanced years - decided I wanted to answer it, from my perspective.
- I look back on my school years. I was achieving well, and the world was my oyster. Yes, it was painful, as our teenage years are often filled with emotional angst, cliques at school, pressure to perform. But overall, I have very good memories of my school years.
- My AFS year in Bangkok when I was 17-18. Though I wouldn’t say it was the happiest time of my life, it was the most extraordinary year, the most life-changing year, and one I have many happy memories from.
- My years as a diplomat in Thailand ten years later, with my husband, when we explored Thailand and Southeast Asia together, gave me wonderful personal and professional experiences.
- I would also look back on my volunteering days. I was healing after loss, and coming to terms with childlessness, learning contentment and mindfulness, and knowing I was helping people. It was a time of growth and insight and friendship, and was very rewarding. It was completely unselfish – well, apart from the good feelings I got from doing it – unlike looking after my own nuclear family would have been, and that also makes it a very special time.
- My travelling years – which overlapped with some of the worst times of my life – started in earnest in the late 1990s. In fact, last year was the first year we haven’t been overseas since … I think … about 1996! We loved travel, we could finally afford it (unlike now), and there were so many places to go. We would go on a trip, and while we were away, we’d often start thinking about where we wanted to go next! I have such great memories from our travels, even the trip to Vanuatu between our two IVF attempts, when we went snorkelling, and attempted sailing on a small catamaran but didn’t know how to turn it around! Even when I was sad because I was recovering from a lost pregnancy (our France trip), or cancelled IVF (Vanuatu), or my father’s death (Queensland), I have fond memories of each place. Perhaps in some ways, the memories of those places are special because of the sadness, and are worth keeping too.
So just because I don’t have children, I still have plenty of times that I can think of that I was happy. I may not have one period of 20 years that I can say were the happiest of my life. But perhaps that’s a bonus – I can look at my life as a whole, and say I had many happiest times of my life. Sure, it has had ups and downs, but much more happiness than sadness. And I’ve still got retirement (provided we can save enough money for it) to look forward to!
What would be your happiest times?