Often I’m compelled to write down and expand upon (i.e. ramble) the random thoughts that pop up in my head. Most of those thoughts and writings never make it to a published blog post, but it feels good to let it all out. Mental purging, or brain vomit, if you will. Gross. But for some reason, I’m hitting publish on this one. It has absolutely nothing to do with running. Or maybe it has everything to do with running, I’m not sure. But here it is.
Knowing my readers, I’m sure you’ve all seen “The Barkley Marathons – The Race That Eats Its Young” documentary on Netflix by now. If not, watch it. This race has been on my “to do” list since I first read about it in a Runner’s World article back in 2010. Now that it’s on the radar of every other runner with a Netflix account, I’m sure my chances of touching the yellow gate have gotten infinitely smaller. Regardless, I’ve got to get a few more years of ultra running under my belt before I even attempt to figure out how to send in my application, and cross my fingers for receiving my letter of condolences.
But back to the documentary.
There is a runner that is featured named John Fegyveresi. At one point in the film, John talks about his father’s untimely and unexpected death at the age of 55. He talks about how his father worked hard his entire life to save up money for retirement, a retirement he had planned to spend traveling with his wife. Then one year before that retirement, his father died from a sudden heart attack.
John discusses an upbringing that so many of us can relate to. We are taught to work hard, to strive to climb the corporate ladder, to build a nest egg, and set ourselves up for a comfortable future, for our retirement. Sacrifice now, so you can enjoy later. Much, much later. This is far more than just the norm in our society, it is expected. It is what an adult deemed as “responsible” does.
Except sometimes later doesn’t come. In fact, none of us are guaranteed “later”.
His father’s passing caused John to realize that perhaps the path he was on wasn’t the right one after all. He realized that you’ve got to live your life NOW. Because all we truly have is right now.
This mindset has resonated within me a lot over the past year. But let me back up a bit.
I’ve spent a large portion of my adult life feeling like a failure. For a number of reasons, really. For not having concrete career goals. Not owning a home with a perfectly manicured front lawn. For not remembering to schedule dentists appointments every six months, like a good adult would. For skipping right past the college/marriage/kids order we are taught at a young age, and going straight to never-been-married single mom. For not driving the latest, greatest soccer-mom SUV, or having my kids enrolled in every possible afterschool program available to “better” them. For sometimes struggling to pay bills, never mind contributing to a retirement fund. All of this, despite good intentions. Despite trying, and failing, over and over again. And for a ton of other things that caused me, in retrospect, a lot of unnecessary stress (we’re talking tear filled utter breakdowns) and low self esteem. I often wondered if I’d ever “get it together”, or have life “figured out”.
But the older I get, the more I begin to realize that the secret to “figuring out life”, is that there truly is nothing to figure out.
You just live. That’s it. And truly living is the most amazing thing you could possibly do. And unfortunately, something so many of us take for granted. This realization has me suddenly no longer fearful of death…but instead fearful of not truly living life. Life FOMO, if you will.
Because the world is full of incomprehensible beauty. It is wonderful, amazing, and frankly, indescribable. I want to do, see, and experience everything I possibly can, and I fear that there will never be enough time in this life. Changing my mindset from focusing on what I don’t have, or what I’ve done wrong, to truly appreciating what I do have, what we all have, and all that surrounds us every single second of every day, has been absolutely life changing for me.
And I hope with all of my heart that I can pass these “expectations” on to my kids as well. Be a good, responsible human being, but above all, be sure to truly LIVE.
I’m not writing this blog post to tell the world to throw all responsibilities and hard work aside. But instead a gentle reminder that stopping your busy life from time to time to truly appreciate what is around you can be life changing. Don’t stop and smell the proverbial flowers, get down on your knees and ACTUALLY SMELL THE FLOWERS. Tell the people you love that you love them. Count your blessings instead of your misfortunates. Don’t longingly picture your dreams, go out and make them happen NOW.
This all sounds so trite and overstated in shelves of “self help” books, but…
I see a lot of friends struggling with life, struggling with identity, and purpose. And perhaps the meaning of life truly is different for every single one of us. But for me, changing my mindset to realize that perhaps the “purpose” is simply to enjoy this amazing planet and the gift of life has truly made me a happier person. I realize the world and the human race has massive problems. I realize that putting on the “rose colored glasses” and taking a spontaneous hike in the woods won’t fix everything.
But it certainly can’t hurt.
My rambling point is this: Every single fraction of a second is a gift. Not recognizing that has to be one of the greatest travesties to mankind. Don’t live someone else’s idea of life, live your own. And truly live it.
Go, live, be. Use your gift wisely.