What Really Matters and the People Who Really Don’t

“Feel what you need to feel now and ask yourself, ‘In five years, will this even matter?’”

To the writer in one of my social media groups, thank you for the new mantra. Kudos to whomever solicited the advice, as well. 

I strive for balance in life, and my writing is no different. I’m a mother, sure, but there are plenty of other things to write about. But last night as I lay down with my youngest, pulled her close and breathed her in, I realized it was ‘that moment’ that will matter in five years. Being there to brush her hair, read stories and put her to bed is what really matters. 

It took me almost 40 years, but I’ve made a shocking discovery: when it comes down to it, there are quite a few inconsequential people in my daily life.

It sounds callous, but I swear that’s not my intention. It’s just that in pondering this saying throughout the day — “In five years, will this even matter?” — I’ve realized the majority of things that I allow to frustrate me … most of those frustrations involve people that matter very little in the movie adaptation of my life. What may sound like ‘heartlessness’ to some is what I’ve come to realize as ‘perspective.’ I think this falls under the Richard Carlson’s similar rallying cry, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff.’

Let me be clear: I’m not calling anyone worthless. Someone insignificant to me is another person’s entire world, and that’s also balance. And these minor characters should be treated with nothing but decency and respect (although there are some days when it’s more difficult than others, am I right?). 

But when the inevitable day-to-day frustrations occur … and reoccur … I know to acknowledge whatever I’m feeling — and then remind myself that in five years, regardless of how monumental it seems now, it really isn’t that big of a deal.  

Witnessing the joy on my oldest daughter’s face as she plays something new on the guitar — seeing that determination in her eyes — is the big deal. It’s the Saturday family movie nights, the quick road trips for a nearby hike, and trying to cook dinner in a kitchen impossibly too tiny for four people … these are the things that will matter. It’s date nights with my husband, long talks on the phone with my mom, thrift store shopping with my closest friend … which all sounds paradoxical to “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” So I guess the small stuff does matter, but only some of the super specific small stuff.

Last week I wrote about the people who make our bad days better, and this week it seems I’m writing about the people who will be forgotten along with those bad days. I know I’m a much happier person when focusing on the main characters in this lovely little life I’ve built, and will be even more content when I master the art of ignoring those whose contributions won’t even make the director’s cut.

It’s all about balance, after all. 

* This column first appeared in The Walton Tribune on February 13, 2021 *



  1. Great! I read once that only 5-6 people will be enduring in your life. The rest have bit parts, significant or not. It’s helped me with perspective — don’t try to elevate people beyond their level of importance.

    I’m liking your world views.

    Vicki Boyd



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