I’ll let you in on the big secret of life—are you ready?
You’re born. You live. Then you die.
That’s it. No, really, that’s it. And all along the way people will tell you how you should spend that life, as though it will make any difference in the simple fact that no matter how you live, someday you will die. Maybe in a car accident. Maybe from a heart attack. Maybe from a gas leak, or a mugging, or an aneurism, or cancer, or by a lightning strike on a golf course, or maybe in your sleep at the age of 106.
My point is that people will tell you what you should and shouldn’t do for your life, when the reality is that none of that really matters. What matters is that today, you are alive, and you are experiencing things, and you make choices to experience other things or the same things tomorrow, and then someday (maybe far away and maybe tomorrow), you die.
Now, people with strong religious beliefs may disagree with me, and I respect their right to do so. Some days I agree with them—I do think there is a moral balance to the universe and a way to treat others that improves our world, and that we should aim for that. But I’m not really talking about the “should” of morality and goodness.
I’m talking about the “should” of everything else—you should get that job. You should marry (or not marry) that person. You should have kids. You should not wear that.
Obviously, I’m talking from personal experience, and so this may not be as much of a universal idea as I think. But there seems to be a path in life that everyone “should” follow, and I don’t want to follow it. And for that choice, I’ve been told that I’ll regret it, that I should go to therapy, that I don’t realize what life is “really about.” My point here is that life is “really about” being alive and then dying. That’s it.
I don’t hate the people telling me these things; in fact, I love them. They want what’s best for me, and they think that what’s best for me is what’s best for them. They want to prevent me from hurting by telling me what I “should” do, so that I won’t feel regret someday. As if the future is made only by our choices.
Sometimes it is our choices that determine our future. But a lot of times, it’s not. You might find the perfect person and marry them—and then they die in a car wreck or leave you for their high school sweetheart. You might have children so that they’ll care for you when you’re old—and then they die in a car wreck or (less morbidly) join a cult and move across the country and marry someone you never meet and have children named Pickle and Widget who think you’re dead. You might find the perfect stable job—and then the apocalypse happens or war breaks out or the internet happens and your industry fades.
My point here is not “don’t get married” or “don’t have children” or “don’t get a stable job.” Most people want those things; that’s why it’s the common path in society. I guess my point is just—do what you want (as long as it doesn’t hurt other people), because life is short and random and you never know what will happen and then you die, maybe sooner than you think. Every choice we make is a balance of what we want now and what we want in the future, and having a “seize the day” attitude can make for a bleak future—but it might not. It could make for an amazing present that might lead to an even more amazing future.
But someone could take my rationale and apply it to using drugs (which only harms themselves, in theory, and feels good in the moment)—and I’d be a hypocrite to say they “shouldn’t” do that. And yet I don’t think that doing drugs is okay. So I can see how my life philosophy can easily devour itself and destroy and if all of society followed it the world would collapse.
This is just one of the many reasons why life is hard—there are no easy answers, no obvious paths, no simple truths. There wouldn’t be politics or life coaches or diets or mid-life crises if there were. And no matter how much you struggle to find the right path, for you and for the world, no matter how “well” you live your life—you still die. Randomly. Inevitably.
I won’t give advice to anyone else; I won’t tell anyone else how to live. I won’t judge you for following the common path; I won’t judge you for not going after your dreams (maybe the common path is your dream!). You make your choices every day and you have your reasons and, “right” or “wrong” (as if that exists), you’ll live your life. And I want you to be happy in that life, but I won’t tell you how to do that.
I’ll be here as you make your choices, as things happen to you, and I’ll love you and support you with not a “should” or “shouldn’t” in sight. I’ll help you if I can, help you to live out your choices. If you find yourself living with regret, I’ll help you make new choices for the rest of your future. I want you to be safe and happy, and I know that life is a constant battle and balance between those things, and I’ll help you try and make the right choices to find your individual balance.
All I ask is that you do the same for me.