Getting through or getting to? You decide.

When I calculated credits and realized I could graduate college in three years instead of four, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. Graduating early meant one year less of student loans and one year closer to marrying my high school sweetheart.

That final summer before graduation, my alarm rang daily at 6 a.m. for early Spanish class. I had a half hour break between my classes and my barista gig at the coffee shop, which I closed down nightly at 11 p.m. Homework fit into the cracks, and I didn’t drive home to the farm from May to October that summer. Needless to say, it was a busy season, and I was more focused on getting through it than having a good time. By the end, I felt a little empty and exhausted.

I don’t regret finishing college early. I still managed to make plenty of fun memories, and I love that we got to start our lives together sooner, kick off my career sooner and grow our family sooner.

Still, I look back wondering—what was my hurry?

My eyes were set on that dangling diploma, but once it was in my hand, college was done. I adored school, and suddenly it was finished.

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This weekend I was back for homecoming. A decade later, with a couple of kids in tow, I noticed the 20-year-olds having the time of their lives, creatively clad in green and gold attire without a care in the world. Their goal for the day wasn’t to get through; it was to soak up every moment.

I’m pretty much always chasing after a goal. Sometimes it’s big. Other times, it’s simply getting through the day, moving along to the next thing.

I’ve gotten through the zombie-like newborn stage, the busy seasons at work, the bitter cold of North Dakota winters, my twenties.

If we’re more focused on the “getting through” than the “getting to”, we wake up one day and realize it’s over. We can’t relive the moments we missed in the middle of creating our plans and checking our lists.

If we wait for retirement to take a vacation, we risk losing our youthful appetite for adventure.

If we delay happiness for when we’ve got it all figured out, we may never be happy altogether.

If we pause fun until the weekend, we waste five days that could be sprinkled with blissful breaks of letting loose.

If we toss the to-do’s once the paper is filled with scribbles, we forget how far we’ve come.

If we keep chasing after the next goal and the next and the next, we may fail to look up, noticing all that’s beautifully unfolding around us.

If all we care about is getting through, we forget that we get to enjoy these moments we’ve been given.

Let’s not just get through this one wild and precious life. Yes, it’s good to have goals, and it’s true that dreams don’t work unless you do. Still, tuck away this thought: once time is gone, it’s gone. There’s no going back.

Whatever number is on your cake, you only get that birthday once. Do you want to remember life as getting through it, or squeezing every second of joy out of the moments you’ve been given?

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