Whenever I looked at Gloria, I could literally see the sadness, disappointment and, worst of all, the regret in her eyes.

It was my first day home from college for the summer break. I remember everything about that day because it changed my general approach to life.

As I pulled up in front of our home, I saw my neighbors’ enormous and beautiful house up for closure. I could not believe it, because they had never seemed to lack anything. They even owned a restaurant chain in the city.

I rushed into our house and asked about the Johnsons and why their home was being closed. My dad shook his head and looked at me sadly. “Mr. Johnson suffered a stroke that has left him paralyzed for some time,” he said.

This news made me miserable. Mr. Johnson was a friendly man who always had a kind word for everyone. I turned to my dad and said, “Daddy, I don’t understand. What has that got to do with their house?”

Well, Mr. Johnson has not been able to work due to his health, and he took a bank loan a while back. He had put up his house, among other assets, as collateral for the loan. Now it’s due for repayment. With the cost of his treatments, alongside his inability to work, the bank decided to put the house up for sale.

“Wow!” I exclaimed in disbelief.

I decided to pay them a visit the next day since they were still at the house. When I got there and had exchanged pleasantries with everyone, Gloria, Mr. Johnson’s wife, called me aside and quizzed me regarding school, my grades, and my friends. She wanted to hear all about my school escapades. We talked for hours, laughing like long lost friends who had met for brunch.

Suddenly, she got so serious that I wondered if I had stepped out of line with something I said. She then asked me to follow her into her study, away from the ears of the other occupants of the house.

As I settled into the chair next to hers, she stared at me. It was pretty clear that she was lost in thoughts. At last, the piercing sound of her phone’s ringtone jolted her back to reality.

After her phone call, she leaned across to me, touched my cheek and said, “I remember when I was your age.”

She had a big smile on her face, but a regretful look filled her eyes when she said in a voice that trembled.

I was so full of dreams and goals for myself. Then I got married and got busy with my children and my family. I knew that I really liked designing clothes, but I never got around to it because there was always something I needed to do for the family. So, I got comfortable and settled for living that way. Even when my kids got older and I had more time to myself, I felt too old. How was I to become a novice fashion designer when tons of younger ones existed?

Right now, if I could rewind the hands of time, I would take out some time to do the things I love. Not just because of my present predicament, but for the fulfillment that comes with it.”

Before she fell into a long, thoughtful silence, she said wistfully, “If I only knew of a way to effectively manage my time.”

It has been more than ten years since I had that conversation with Gloria but it seems like it was yesterday.

There are no words to fully describe living the life of your dreams; it is something one can only experience. The feeling is definitely worth the entire struggle. But having children requires most of your time and attention, so does your professional and social life.

As I grew older I realized how easy it is not to be intentional with your time and allow time pass you by.

I realized that effective time management is a skill that so many desire but few people have.

Effective time management encompasses what you spend your time doing, where you spend it and who you spend it with. What matters is not the amount of time we have but how we use it.

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