It’s true we all live in some sort of turbulence. The air is not always graced with success, hope, and satisfaction, but just like basic physics; every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Choosing drastic changes in ones life, even if for the better, doesn’t always lead to the readily seen, or pleasurable results. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist, as with any dedication, perfection comes with a tremendous amount of persistence, work, and due diligence.
While traveling this past year abroad, I’ve found and met many people seeing the world. Some more amiable than others, but moreover I’ve met hundreds of people who have no idea where they are going in life; wherever the wind blows is fine with some of them and others who require a defined direction. To those people that know me personally, I’m sure I’ve appeared somewhat haphazard in my travels over the years. However, there’s always been a method to my madness, maybe I’m too stubborn to look past my own ideologies and find contentment in more simple happiness’s. Then again, maybe it’s my desire for the extraordinary, or the idea of destination unknown… There is no question that I’ve had an interesting ride thus far around this globe of ours, and I certainly haven’t seen enough.
|"Lemme show ya something'!"|
One thing is for certain though; money clearly does not buy happiness. That age-old adage has been proven true far too many times, from lottery winners, to even myself pre-2008 recession when I went from financially secure and solvent, backwards to paycheck to 4 days before each paycheck!
I run a forum on Couchsurfing.org called “What am I doing with my life?” It has members spanning from teenagers to middle aged people in their mid 60’s. I’ve personally watched many people transform their everyday lives into long held dreams as well as others who remain hopelessly stagnant. While Couchsurfing is predominantly a shoestring budget travel oriented website, it is an excellent resource for simple philosophical conversations as well.
As I do every year, I write an end of the year editorial, and as I’ve done previously, I poll social media on a couple of questions, and base my article on the data results I glean. This year’s questions were:
#1. If you had only 6 months to live, what would be the most important thing for you to do in that time frame?
#2. If you could know the exact date of your death, but not how, would you want to know?
I had quite a number of responses. Well, 5 of which were anecdotal, or arbitrary responses that had nothing to do with the questions. Surprisingly enough only one person said he would “go on a killing rampage and murder everyone he hates, and then go down in a blaze of glory”. Now, personally, I don’t think that blowing people up like a religious whack job with a bomb strapped to his chest is a quality way to leave the planet, much less hurting others, but I should have expected that from at least one or two people. I doubt he was serious, considering the person seems to be quite successful, and has no real issues apparent of concern, but who knows? Maybe he’s a secret nut job, rubbing himself in peanut butter planning the next big Smucker’s Jelly Plant heist, but he’s not the point of my story.
From a strictly mathematical position for question #2: 97% of responses said that they had no desire to know the exact date of their passing. The other 3% either wanted to know the exact date so they could use their 6 months as efficiently as possible plus the 1 person who “wanted to go down in a blaze of glory” (possibly strawberry is his flavor of choice…).
The first question was considerably more complex. 91% of the responses were in regard to making sure they gave their friends, pets, and family the love they deserve in preparation before doing anything else. Then the remaining 9% wanted to live their life free of the bonds fear. Let me reiterate; that 9% gave the typical response “to live each day as if it were the last”.
A few years ago, a US based movie, called The Bucket List (2007), starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, portrayed a pair of unlikely would be friends dying of cancer, who go off on several adventures before they “kicked the bucket” and died. Short of the movie being fairly well received, I’ve seen more people actually take a cue from Christopher McCandless (John Krakauer’s non fiction book “Into The Wild” and later made movie by Sean Penn) where the young McCandless seeking his own adventure unfortunately proved fatal in the Alaskan interior. In McCandless’ final weeks, the only regret he appeared to have was not showing the people he loved how much they meant to him, and he underlined “Happiness is only real when shared” in his copy of Family Happiness by Leo Tolstoy, in his final days.
What surprised me, and has surprised me over the course of the last year while my own life has been in constant flux, is that it’s extremely easy to say, “Maybe one day I’ll do (Insert variable here)”. It doesn’t matter. It absolutely baffles me that people assume that money will bring them happiness, and that time is some sort of limitless black hole that in our daily Western lives we will always have the ability to “eventually get around to it”. “It”, being the variable. “It” could be: Visit distant friends, see the world, get a different job, make a new friend, find something that’s missing, or find a solution to a problem long ignored, etc.
I always seem to harp at people and remind them that this life, is the only one you have. As comic and musician Tim Minchin coyly states in a poem called Storm:
“I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant bit of carbon. I have one life that is short and unimportant, but thanks to recent scientific advances I get to live twice as long as my great, great, great, great uncles, and aunties. Twice as long…to live this life of mine, twice as long to love this wife of mine, twice as many years of friends and wine…of sharing curries and getting shitty with good looking hippies with fairies on their spines, and butterflies on their titties.”
In the last year, I have had many great things to be grateful for. While, even on grander days, I still attribute 2013 to be a not so pleasant year overall for me personally, but what I did do, thanks to a number of amazing people; was leave the US and relocate to Costa Rica for a time and spend time with my aging father and step mother, who when I arrived deeply needed my help. I have been living each day exactly how I please, in the meantime I write with the deepest passion I’ve ever had, and eventually I will return from whence I came with a deeper knowledge of myself, my craft, and my father. How could I regret any of that?
When I left the US 4 months ago, my entire life was put on hold. I gave the majority of my possession’s way to charity, moved out of my condo in Washington DC, and due to my employer being the best company I’ve worked for allowed me to leave indefinitely till it was time for me to return. (On a personal note: I will forever be grateful to Tony & Tim for guiding my career path, and their compassion, and humanity toward me. My employer never treated me like a number. Ever.)
In conclusion, people have told me a million times in the last 4 months; “I give anything to do what you’re doing right now”. My response is always the same; ‘I gave EVERYTHING to do what I am doing right now, but you know what? Not a single one of us on this planet are getting out alive’. We meander, procrastinate, postulate, and pretend there will always be a tomorrow. For millions globally, tomorrow will never come. If you have a dream, or someone you love and need to tell them so —What the hell are you waiting for? It never required a possible death sentence for a reason to follow through. It’s 2014. I’d like to say make your dream a reality this year, but if you haven’t started it yet, you need to live like there is no tomorrow today. If you think you have something to loose, there is no greater loss than gaining the regret of not being what or where you want to be today.
|New Years Eve Sunset on 2013 in Playas Del Coco Costa Rica ©2013 Christian Ernst Photography|
©2014 Christian’s Theory