Saturday, December 20, 2008

Inspired by a friend (or two).

There's some famous, cliché quote that reads something like, "Live every day as if it were your last." Theoretically, it's a good philosophy of life. I think we all wish, at some point, that we could forget everything and just do what makes us happy at the present moment. But human nature--and, to some point, nurture--pushes us to set goals for ourselves in life; whether consciously or unknowingly, we're forever striving for something.

While I was in Colorado for a service trip, I briefly met a woman in her late sixties that had not worked an hour of her life. As much as it annoys me that so many people have opportunity and/or ability to work yet don't and live off government aid (that's another issue not to be discussed here), I somehow truly respected her. She wasn't well-off at all, but she was just radiant with pure happiness. Even more amazingly, she was proud of every single thing that she had experienced, accomplished, and undertaken during her lifetime, even if a "normal" person would consider her a failure or an embarrassment to society. She shared with our group that she had been on over one hundred acid trips in the sixties--and we were just kids from Wisconsin that she would never see again. I mean, that's not just something you tell random strangers, but, to her, it was.

What I guess I'm trying to say about this woman is that she just lived; she simply existed. She had no idea what tomorrow would bring, and she didn't care. She lived under the poverty line and yet bought six people ice cream at DQ and cared enough to share her story with them. She really did live her days as if they were her last, even if it's cliché. And I respect that because I, psychologically, am not able to, nor will ever be, live that way, at least to the extent she did.

I can't do that because I can't focus my life on solely the short term. I can't just simply exist, like her, without feeling worthless or empty. I can't be writing this post right now and feel like I've accomplished anything because I have so much left to do, in terms of both petty tasks and life in general. I can't look on the past and feel like I've accomplished everything I've ever wanted to, because I haven't. And she just really could look at her past like that. It's unfathomable, but I guess it's just how some peoples' minds work.

I think the hardest decisions we have had or will ever have to face are difficult because of the internal struggle between short-term and long-term satisfaction. Right now, the decision to finish this post is hard for me because it's 11:11 and I should be sleeping. I know I'll regret it in the morning when my alarm wakes me up to go to work, but I'm going to continue this post right now because I'm inspired and doing so will give me the satisfaction of finally writing again (it's been a while) to share my thoughts with the world. So okay, this seems like a lame example, but it can be applied to the grander scheme, to my life, to yours.

My all-time favorite musical, RENT, proclaims, "There's only us, there's only this; forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other road, no other way; no day but today," for those of you who aren't familiar with it. After seeing it *mumble mumble* times, I've tried to take its message to heart, but the truth is that I really can't. That woman could, that woman did. But I, I cannot forget what I strive for--an education, a career, a family, some accomplishment to be proud of--and look only at the present moment.

What I, in practice, take from RENT and that woman is to find a balance between short-term and long-term. I need to find something that makes me truly happy every single day but at the same time feel like I'm contributing to the bigger accomplishments of my life.

It's hard for me to put this into words. It's taken me well over a half an hour to write this, and I haven't said much comparable to what's in my head. But I think I'm going to end here.

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