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twenty years from now

This evening, I went to wash my face. It’s part of my regular, get-home-from-work ritual. The little details that become habits. Except, after I splashed water on my face, I opened my eyes and saw blood all over the sink. It was nothing more than a bloody nose. I haven’t had one in forever. I used to get them all the time. But in that split second before rational thought kicked in, my mind reeled through every possibility and somehow landed on, “Oh my god, you’re dying.”

Yes, this is another exercise in how my brain is an asshole. But really, it has been a terribly long, no-good Monday. Actually, things have been extremely leaning toward dodgy for a bunch of days. But I digress.

Melodramatic flourish aside, it was an interesting moment. It reminded me of something I said last week (edited slightly): I don’t want to wake up twenty years from now and regret missing out. And that really is the best advice I could give anyone. It’s been said before, true, by far more eloquent folks. But no one, on his deathbed, laments, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t kissed that girl” or “I wish I’d been less true to myself.” Or, even, “I wish I’d lived a safer life.”

How much heart do you truly put into things? How much love can you stuff into a single moment, a single gesture? Underneath all the muck and the mire, what do you want out of life? Who do you want? What do you love?

These are important questions. But how you answer them is important, too. If you can’t be honest when trying to decide whether to go left or right, then you may as well just stop. You’re not living life. You’re moving the pieces around the board. Punching the clock. Checking things off a list.

But twenty years from now, what’s going to matter? Is it going to be the extra thirty minutes you spent at work or is it going to be the sound of a full-bodied laugh? Will it be the quiet routine of expectations or the rebel beat of your too-happy heart when kiss someone who adores you? Is your life made out of checklists or someone who makes you soup when you don’t feel well?

The answer might not be simple, but it is clear. Two decades from now, the details of things will be fuzzy around the edges, but you’ll never forget the way somebody made you smile. You might forget the exact wording of an inspired conversation, but not the fierce passion beneath it.

Sometimes, we put up walls. This is a defense mechanism, surely. We’re scared of going after whatever it is we want or love – ideally, both. We’re scared of the pursuit itself, because it is always a risk, always a vulnerable undertaking. But if you heat up anything enough, it bends. It takes time and purpose, but men fashion metal into shapes. Beautiful things emerge out of fire, and that’s all love really ever is: a stunning fire.

But I will tell you this: a life without love is only half a thing. With apologies to Margaret Atwood, it’s the outline of a bird – nothing more than its labeled bones. It cannot fly. And, darling, you were not born with clay feet or a leaden heart. You were not fashioned out of dust and dirt, only to be less than a miracle.

So, twenty years from now, what will you regret? Fix it now while you can. Don’t leave anything to chance. Don’t leave a gleaming hope to dull. Don’t hold yourself back, because of anything – especially not fear. There’s always a way, if you’re willing. There’s always an avenue, a different path. It might be a mess getting to where you want to be. It might be a fight, a battle – a decision with teeth. But what are you doing, if you’re not fighting for what (and who) you love? If your life isn’t full of laughter and silliness, why not?

I know I’m not dying right this minute – and I know it’s cliché – but I never want to hold back because of how something might look or sound. I never want to stay silent, because I’m having trouble gathering the exact right words. And I never want to leave any doubt about how much anyone means to me or how much I want people in my life. I never want to be walled in be fear of seeing silly. And I won’t let my epically bad timing keep me from shouting out all the impossible things out loud. (Guys, I have the worst timing in all the land, but it’s MY timing, damn it. I’ve got my own schedule. Always have. That’s why I was born more than three months early.)

Twenty years from now, love, what’s your story look like? And exactly how much did you dare?

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.—J. A. Shedd.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 9, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    “I wish I’d lived a safer life.”

    In fairness, no one who would utter that phrase dies safely in bed. 🙂

  2. February 12, 2015 at 6:11 pm


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