At first I was dying to grow up and go to high school
Then I was dying to finish high school and go to college
Then I was dying to finish college and start working
Then I was dying to get married and have children
Then I was dying for my children to grow old enough so I can go back to work
Then I was dying to retire
And now I am dying
And I suddenly realised
I forgot to live…
I came across this poem a few weeks ago and it really resonated with me. The duality expressed by the author of moving mechanically through life combined with regrets of not striving for anything beyond the ordinary is incredibly sad.
Before I retired four years ago I was a person that was “dying” for things to happen. I had been moving through life, in the mechanical way we are all trained to do, thinking that the next phase of life would be the one that would make me feel fulfilled. I had finished school and began a career. I spent 25 years caught up in being busy, distracted and “on track” with work and consumerism. I was “dying” to retire and had finally made it to the point where I could, when reality struck. I had always dreamed of doing extraordinary things, but huge blocks of time had gotten away from me. I was about to pass one of the last significant milestones that people are “dying” for and I still hadn’t allowed myself to spread my wings and chase my dreams.
Dreams can be a part of happiness, but you shouldn’t allow dreams to defer your happiness in the present.
The realization that I had gone this far through life, and I was still deferring my dreams, was one of the scariest things I had ever encountered. So, with intention, I took retirement at the earliest point possible, sold everything I owned and began chasing my lifelong passions of travel, writing and photography. It was a radical change and mentally it wasn’t easy, but that leap was one of the most emotionally satisfying things I have ever done. I had made a decision to take personal control of my destiny and consequences be damned.
I began my new life by moving to an isolated, blue water, white sand beach on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. I loved it there, but soon circumstances and opportunity called me to a radically different, but equally lovely, colonial town high in pine scented mountains of Central Mexico. Even though I loved it there and I made some amazing friendships, I didn’t want to get too comfortable and complacent again; so after a quick diversion in the United States, I bought a one-way ticket to Asia. As I envisioned, I continue to travel a lot, make pictures, experience new cultures, put a few words “on paper” and simply live. Like any life, my new one has its share of difficulties, but by learning the lessons the difficulties teach and overcoming them I have grown more confident, less fearful and ready to take on more challenges.
Over the last several years I have met, many, many people that have told me. “I wish I could do what you are doing.” The sad truth is that many, if not most, of the people that suggest they want to try something different are fully capable of doing so, but fear keeps them from giving it a try. They may not be conventionally happy in what they see as their rut in life, but the thought of change, dealing with the unknowns and leaving the stifling comfort of routine fills them with dread. So they say, “I wish I could”, and continue slowly and quietly “dying” in place.
One of the problems with the way modern humans live their lives is that they look forward to the next stage in life, without being present in the current one. It is entirely possible to stop the process of “dying” just by seeing beauty in your current situation. If you are truly satisfied with where you are in life, why change it? If you truly desire to change course, you have to quit making excuses and adjust where you are pointing yourself. Dreams can be a part of happiness, but you shouldn’t allow dreams to defer your happiness in the present. Change is not always necessary for happiness, but if you need change, you should courageously face the challenges.
Again, I am not suggesting that anyone follow the path that I have taken. I think it a good path if you desire similar things, but you have to find your own map. What I can say is that taking control and “living” the best life I can, every day, has brought me incredible joy and satisfaction. I was on the edge of “forgetting to live” and made a change. All I had to do was overcome my fears and I no longer feel as if I am “dying”.
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