“He was diagnosed with cancer. After a hard, but successful treatment, he decided to quit his finance job and open a bakery, like he always wanted.”
“Her mom passed away. She realized life was short and decided to pursue her dream of going back to school to become a lawyer.”
“He was in a bad car accident and almost died. When he woke up, he sold of all his things and moved to Barcelona to become a writer and learn Spanish.”
“She was laid off. Instead of finding work in the same industry, she realized she hated her old job and wrote a book instead.”
We’ve all heard these stories. We may even personally know someone that’s gone through something very similar: a terrible life event that makes them feel the weight of their own mortality, then BAM, just like that, a shift in the way they view themselves and the world. We see these stories as inspiring. And they are. But they are also incredibly sad, because all of those people waited until they almost couldn’t to create the life they wanted.
I have my own *almost* story of the same. The almost is very, very important here. I’ll make it short: my baby sister recently broke her leg (she’s not really a baby, she’s 22, but she’ll always be a baby to me). Although the processes of the surgery, healing, and physical therapy were immensely challenging, in the days just after she broke her leg, she was basically lying around at the hospital and her apartment, getting all the time in the world to relax and do (for the most part) what she wanted. A note about my sister: she is not a relaxer. She was a pre-med student, she scored in the hundredth percentile of MCAT test-takers and she is, generally, an academic bad ass. Her entire college career she worked really, really hard. Then, she breaks her leg and all of a sudden, it’s a forced rest, a forced reliance on other people.
Let me be clear: my sister didn’t like it. Where I’m going with the story is this: a few weeks after she was released from the hospital, I found myself driving to a grocery store and thinking that although it really sucked that she broke her leg, I was glad she was now getting to take a much-needed break. Then I thought about how nice it would be to have a few days to sit around in a hospital, with my family around, getting a break myself.
Then I thought this: What the actual fuck? Am I REALLY sitting here thinking about how great it would be to break my fucking leg to get away from my daily life? What the fuck is wrong with that picture?
Luckily, you know the way this story ends. No one gets cancer, or hurt, or laid off, or breaks their leg (besides my sweet baby sister). That wasn’t the exact moment I decided to start my journey of full-time travel, but it was decidedly close. Even though it still took a few days after that, and another crappy event, for me to really decide to quit my job and travel, the important thing was that I realized how fucked up that moment was. If I was daydreaming about breaking my leg to get what I saw as “relaxation,” something was seriously wrong.
So, why do we do this to ourselves? Why do so many of us walk around with a nagging sensation that something just isn’t right in the way we’re living but continue to go through the motions until we’re forced to face the fact that we’re not immortal?
Are we meant to live our lives in a box, constantly waiting for 5PM or the weekend or “one day”? What kind of bullshit is that?
“One day” is today, god damn it!
I’m by no means an expert on the idea of seizing the day and “living in the moment only” (LITMO-ing?), as my dad says. I probably should have spent some more time thinking about what was right for me and what wasn’t before I reached the age of 30. But fuck that – I’m here now and I (selfishly, perhaps) want other people to be here, too.
Let’s not wait until we’re facing tragedy before we decide to do something different.
Let’s do it, right fucking now.