Thursday, October 16, 2014

Enjoy Yourself; It's Later Than You Think

A few years ago, I watched the series finale of a television show called House. I loved the main character, Dr. House. He was a narcissistic jerk (who may have reminded me of myself), but he was a lovable narcissistic jerk, so I tuned in every week. The final scene of the series still haunts me to this day (in both good and bad ways).

The show's plot was way too complex to explain in a single blog post, but essentially, Dr. House's best friend (an oncologist named Dr. Wilson) was dying of cancer and only given 6 months to live. Dr. House faked his own death (I told you it was complicated) and arranged for them to spend Wilson's final months traveling the countryside on motorcycles.

As the series fades to black, House and Wilson begin their journey cruising down the highway. In the background, a song plays. The song's chorus:

Enjoy yourself; it's later than you think
Enjoy yourself while you're still in the pink
The years go by as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself; it's later than you think.

I haven't been able to get those lines out of my head since.

In my 20's, I thought I would live forever. Not literally, obviously. I understood that all living creatures eventually die. But it felt like I had all the time in the world. There was always tomorrow. I could be anyone. Do anything. Sure, there was stress and anxiety and fear, but the future was as limitless as my dreams.

As I near 40, I realize that I'm on the back end of my life. Not that I'm old, but death is no longer an imaginary friend. My mortality feels real. And that's changing everything.

For sooooooooo long, I've played by the rules of a world that has an agenda. This world wants my time. It wants my money. It wants my energy. It wants my precious, fleeting, ever-dwindling minutes. And for sooooooooo long, I've obliged. I licked my index finger and stuck it in the air to determine which way the winds were blowing, and then I acted out a script someone else had written for me.

The world said to follow the rules, so I followed the rules (without stopping to question if the rules had my—or your—best interests at heart). The world said to spend money and time on my external looks, so I emptied my wallet, stood on a scale, and stared into the mirror looking for flaws. The world said popularity is what ultimately matters, so I desperately tried to be noticed. Aren't I clever? Aren't I smart? Aren't I talented? Aren't I important? Please tell me. Like my Facebook status. Retweet me. Read my blog.

The term "midlife crisis" gets overused, but I've experienced something over the past few weeks that feels like a turning point. I don't want to wait around for a near-death experience, a cosmic tragedy, or a terminal diagnosis to start living.

Of course, we all understand in the philosophical sense that everyone has a terminal diagnosis. Most of us just aren't sure how much time we have left. But my guess is, it's later than you think.

I'm not saying I've found the secret to life. I'm sure by this time next year I'll be on to the next existential crisis. But I'm committed to trying. My wife and I decided to do something next summer that is abnormal. It's not cheap, but we have the money. It could flop, but that's okay. Why wait for the perfect set of circumstances that may or may not ever come? Why wait for life to slap us upside the head to start living?

Some people think our summer plans are crazy. Or selling our house. Or moving downtown. Or waiting to start a family. I've certainly been judged for some of my choices throughout the years. But that's because most people are so unhappy (or insecure) with their own lives that they only feel better by tearing down someone else. (I only know that because I've often been the unhappy, jealous, insecure person driving the bulldozer.) Luckily, we can rise above. Chart our own courses. Death is eventually coming for us all, so we might as well live the lives we were created to live in the time we have left.

Oh, and the next time it rains, throw on some old clothes (or even better, throw on a suit or dress), and go play in the mud. Because … enjoy yourself. Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think.

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