Which Major Phases of Life Have You Been Through — and What Have You Learned?

Here’s kind of an amorphous topic for today: When you look back over your life, what are the big periods or phases you’ve experienced? I read an article a while ago (I’m SO annoyed I can’t find it) that theorized that most people enter a new phase of life every 7 years. (Or maybe that there were 12 total phases that everyone entered in life? Hmn.) We discussed it in the parenting context last week at CorporetteMoms — I’m doing a lot of thinking about “how to reinvent myself as a mom” as we head into the golden years of parenting when the kids still like us but don’t need 100% supervision on nights and weekends — but this idea of phases/cycles is so true in general with life.

For my own $.02, my big phases of life have been:

(all the K-12 phases)College and law school – focused on school, learning, big philosophical questions about “who I’ll be,” lots of very, very, very close friendshipsPost-college, pre-grad school — Baby phase since I was only out for about two years between undergrad/grad, but one that made an impact! Lots of “whoa” moments with adulting-type things, money, cooking, etc.Post-law school and early marriage (I’d say 25-34 or so!) — focused on my career and dating, a few close friendships, figuring out lifestyle questions like fitting exercise into lifeEarly parenting – This phase was absolutely dominated by the kids and babies and being pregnant — but friendships changed so much around this time too because many of my friends were having kids and becoming less available for non-family things. I’ve always been close with my family, but in general I saw a huge resurgence of family in my friends’ lives around this time period. Because the kids needed so much supervision and energy, there really wasn’t a lot of time for hobbies beyond sleep/exercise/cooking.(Now we’re entering a new phase when the kids are Little People — some of the mom friends I made are falling away and I’m trying to reinvigorate older friendships — thinking about what hobbies I want for myself, how I want to define myself now.)(I can see how things will change hugely when we get to the Empty Nester phase, but my husband and I are still young(ish). I’m dreading the elder care issues that will probably be in full swing around this period, but maybe earlier.)(Retirement — maybe grandparenthood)(Declining health)

It’s not a strict “7 years,” but you can see how there are definitely huge periods when you’re on one path before a new path starts to come into view (or an old path disappears entirely).

In any event, I thought this would be an interesting topic to discuss, both because a) everyone’s life phases are going to be a bit different (particularly if you don’t have kids, or if grad school/new career came at a different place in your life, or if divorce/remarriage is part of your path) and b) we’re all at different points along the path.

What life phases can you see if you look at your life? For those of you who’ve been through many phases and now have the benefit of hindsight, what do you wish you’d learned in each phase of life?

(Aside, of course, from the usual lessons one learns through life, like the importance of flossing and wearing sunscreen and not putting up with people who treat you less than you deserve.)

Stock photo via Stencil.