Preparing for Life is No Way of Living

I recently read a comment that middle school is about getting prepared for high school. What? I thought middle school existed so we could all commiserate about how awful it was.

Preparation Treadmill

Our culture has become preoccupied with preparing, especially children. We talk and act as though kids live in this false reality where the entire purpose is to prepare them to join the “real world”   someday. Maybe this is why ideas such as intention and mindfulness have become so popular, does anyone live in the moment anymore or are we all so focused on the “one day?”

Preschool is to get children ready for kindergarten and kindergarten is to prepare them for today’s more academic elementary school. This is necessary so they can prepare in middle school for the demands of preparing for high school. Of course, high school is all about preparing for college which is necessary if you want to be prepared to compete in the global economy.

Competing in the global economy is necessary so you can prepare for retirement and fund your own children’s journey on this conveyor belt of preparation.

Now we even begin our training in utero with classical music and read alouds.

Does anyone else find this absurd?

Who want’s to spend their life preparing for a day that may never come? Or worse, preparing for something you don’t even want or you can’t even identify?

Life is Meant for Living Today

Yes, of course, we have a societal responsibility to take care of ourselves and families, but our entire existence has morphed into a belief that we must always be preparing so we can get ahead and not fall behind, especially when it comes to children and education. Isn’t life meant to be lived right now? It doesn’t get postponed until you are ready.

I want my kids to live their life now, to have today be wonderful and not just preparation for tomorrow. Perhaps we should watch the nature documentary because we marvel at the natural world, not because there will be a pop-quiz. Maybe we should enjoy a classic because it’s a good book, not because we have to write a paper,  to get a good grade, to go to a good college, to go into debt, to get a good job, to pay the debt.

One inevitable side effect of this preparation is procrastination. I need to prepare before I begin this healthy habit, apply for this new job, or start this business. We perpetually put things off while waiting for the perfect circumstances or the piece of paper that certifies we are worthy.

Finding Balance

How do we find a balance?

I’m a worrier by nature, so living without a thought of tomorrow isn’t likely. What is the proper amount of preparation that doesn’t sacrifice today, because this moment is all we have?

That would depend on each person. Do you know exactly what you want to be doing and are willing to endure every sacrifice to make it happen? Great! Are you going through the motions just doing the next thing because it is expected of you? It may be time to reassess.

So What About the Kids?

Can we let them be kids? Really be kids?

Let’s not perpetuate this constant state of preparation where today is only relevant because it’s the precursor to tomorrow.

Let them enjoy today without the continuous chiding that they’ll “need to know this someday” or how they’ll never make it “in the real world.”

Let them just be so they can know themselves and not fill their days (and nights) with adult-directed activities in a quest for the nebulous well-rounded person.

Well, that’s all for now, I have to get prepared for the day.

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