At 22, I feel like I have the whole world at my finger tips. My best friends and I keep planning trips all around the globe, and as far fetched as they may be, we have to make it happen. We have to see the Pyramids in Egypt, swim in the beaches of Bali, fall in love with the beats of Rio, eat pizza in Verona, listen to the song of the mountains in Austria, walk down Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, run on the Great Wall of China waving to the sky hoping someone will see us, and scream as loud as the lions do in Africa.
I know a 60 year old man who has to be hooked to an oxygen tank 24/7 because his lung (singular) needs all the help it can get. Walking becomes a chore. Staying in bed all day becomes the norm. He has lost muscle mass because he can’t do any form of exercise and all his physical efforts go into him focusing on inhaling and exhaling. Don’t get me wrong. He can still walk around but maybe just for a few meters or so. More than that, he has to catch his breath.
Just like how any other story goes, one day, he saw a picture of Machu Picchu on facebook. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and I’m sure that you, whoever is reading this, has thought “I want to see that someday!” He thought the same thing but added, “That’s part of my bucket list of places to visit that I am never going to see”.
When I heard that, I couldn’t understand what I felt. Pity? Sadness? Regret for him? Maybe all at the same time? I don’t know. But, I knew what I thought at that moment. And it is what I am sharing with you all today.
An average person has about seventy or so years to live, eighty-plus if you’re lucky. Many of us think that “70 years? That’s more than enough time for me to do the things I want.” In reality, seventy years can honestly feel like 7 seconds. One minute you’re putting on your black shoes for the first day of elementary school, the next minute you’re putting on your black dress shoes for a job interview. The next thing you know, you’re 70 years old wishing you could go see all the places you once wrote down on your list of “Places to see by the time I’m 30” or could do all the things you’ve postponed and said, “Nah, there’s always tomorrow”.
So, to answer the question at the beginning of this post, we have to make the trips happen for this reason: to not regret. I am slowly learning that once you say “no” to an opportunity, how sure are you it’ll come strolling down your path again? I remember one of my high school teachers telling us that Opportunity is this beautiful man with no clothes on (just go with me on this one), drenched in oil (no, really, it’ll make sense), and has a pony tail on his forehead (keep reading…). He appears to you all majestic looking, and you are then awestruck. He’s coming at you fast, and you have only one chance to grab his hair and go with him before it’s too late. If you missed that chance, that second, you’ll find yourself grasping for his arms, legs, but to no avail because you’ll just slip right off. Then, where does that leave you?
Those posts online that go “Life is too short, buy the shoes” make us go, “Ha, yeah right. If only I could, honey”. BUT YOU CAN. Maybe save up for it?
And it doesn’t even have to be about buying things. It could be finally jumping off of a cliff into the ocean, screaming at the top of your lungs when the roller coaster drops, seeing for the first time a wild penguin up close, or dancing in the streets late at night.
It doesn’t have to be an adrenaline rush thing either! Let’s say all your life you’ve always wanted to learn how to cook, paint, sing, or play an instrument. Guess what? YOU CAN. So what if it doesn’t taste good or your painting ends up looking like a 5 year old did it? Practice and keep searching for what you’re good at, and at least you’ll be able to say, “Haha, at least I’ve done it”.
But make sure you’re not hurting anybody or doing something illegal. Maybe don’t rob a store. Maybe… you shouldn’t curse that man for cutting you off. Opportunity isn’t waiting for you down that road.
Make your own sentence that fits you and your story. “Life is short,…” Don’t make the common mistake of waiting and then suddenly regretting. Just be smart, and really, go live.