The Blue View: Life and How to Live It
I feel old.
I talked with a college friend of mine last night, and we talked about our medical problems. How sad is that? I'm 37, for cripes' sake. (By the way, I had to have a lesion removed from the back of my mouth - next to the uvula - because they want to double-check that it's not pre-cancerous. And my overall cholesterol is good, but my HDL - the high-density lipoproteins- that's the good cholesterol - was too low at my checkup, so I've been exercising 6 days a week to raise it. I get my cholesterol checked again in two days, and should know a few days after that how my HDL is doing.)
See? That's what I do these days. Why am I telling you this? What's my point? Well, to be honest, when I started I didn't have one, I just wanted to tell you about my aches and pains. I need to have a point, though, and here it is: do it now.
Do what now? How the hell should I know? It's your life. The point is, just yesterday I was in college. Now I'm taking medications and sometimes joints hurt because I slept funny. Yeah. I SLEPT FUNNY. That's one reason joints hurt when you're 30-damned-7. Whatever it is you want to get done in this life, start on it now. Life goes fast, and you're burning through yours already.
I had a friend down the street who screwed up a business, blamed everybody but himself, and died of cancer last summer. Every day he's ever going to experience has happened. He's already had the best day of his life, and the worst day, and the first and last day. He died in fear and despair, and I think it's because he felt like he'd never done most of the things he meant to. I have another friend who wrote a perl script for a message board, which he called the Ultimate Bulletin Board, and he founded a company now called InfoPop and has changed the world for the better. He's not dying, but if he were, I have no doubt that he'd be more at peace with it than the guy who did die. I fall somewhere in between those two. I haven't done the thing that will allow me to feel like the world is a better place, but I'm working toward it, and I''m not dying yet (cross your fingers about that lesion).
My nuclear family celebrates a holiday in July - on the 23rd, to be precise - ''Take Stock of Your Life Day.'' Here's what we do. For the first one, we made a list of the top 10 things we want to do before we die. We didn''t put it in such stark terms for the kids. For them it's just the top 10 things you want to do ever. The ''before you die'' is just a little catalyst for us adults. We created our lists, and we talked about our lists. Now every July 23, we review our lists, and revise them as necessary, and then I go out and get something for each person in the family to help them toward one of their goals. (It''s often a book. As the kids get older, it may be a meeting with someone at a museum or something; I don't know. We're not there yet.) The other thing we do is have a special dinner together just to underscore that we're doing something pretty cool â€“ you know, â€œthat's how this night is different from all othersâ€Â kind of stuff.
I want my kids to always have that overall sense of their life - that you might not be writing your novel today, but if not, you never let it slip from your mind either, and you know why you're not writing it today. Or you may not be paying for your ticket to fly into space today, but you're intending to live long enough to be buying that ticket before you die. Don't be afraid to think of life in those terms. Don't be afraid to use today on some of the big stuff.
I also wish I could infuse my kids with â€“ and I haven't figured out how to do so yet â€“ a sense of urgency about life. You always feel like you''re busy, and you feel like you have lots of things tying you down, but you have no idea how easy you have it until you have kids (if you decide to have kids, of course). If I knew when I was just out of college how much time and how little financial responsibility I had, I would have gone to L.A. with that damn script I wrote that was good enough to get an agent (I know because it did get an agent). Some people 'get' that sense of here-and-now-ness inherently. I didn't. I thought those people who were actually paying to take classes at Second City so they might someday be part of the cast were crazy. I was sure it was a scam. I thought the people who were auditioning for plays and commercials and tv shows were wasting their time. I thought the people going up to New York to live in closet-sized apartments and freelance for Rolling Stone would only spend all the more time climbing out of debt later when they got real jobs because they wouldn''t make a dime at it. I thought the people going to grad school were sensible, but they weren''t doing what I wanted to do.
If the rest of this hasn't been pedantic enough, allow me to fix that now. Decide what you want to do with your life. The things you most want to do are probably those things you are most afraid to admit you want to do. Admit them, and then try like hell to do them before you die.