When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement address, June 12, 2005
My mother’s mother died when I was 29. I was working a football game when I got the news that she had passed away. I lived in Florida and couldn’t get home for the funeral right away so I kept working. I broke down after the game, perhaps because I realized she was gone or perhaps because I kept working like a heartless 20-something with a burning desire to have a successful career.
I vividly remember staring into the Florida sunset and thinking, this isn’t going to get better – the older I get, the more people are going to die. It’s fair to say an anti-depressant at that time in my life would have been beneficial but hindsight is 20-20. I had been through funerals before but they were years apart, giving me ample time to recover from mourning. Until that thought, I had not considered how often death would happen and how it seemed to get more difficult to bounce back from sadness.
Of course now I am in my 40s and people I went to high school with have passed away, leaving behind kids and husbands and wives. I wonder if they were doing what they wanted or if they were doing what they thought they were supposed to be doing. Or, if they were like me and didn’t know what they wanted to do.
Unfortunately, more often than I would care to admit, many of the people I know are declaring themselves as old and by accepting that, they are giving up. I can’t get in shape, I’m old. I can’t go skiing, I’m old. I can’t have a career I want, I’m too old. I’m old, there’s no reason to lose weight. When I hear those phrases, or when I think that way, I’m reminded of this commercial:
Steve Jobs asked himself every day if he was doing what he wanted that day and if he wasn’t, he knew he needed to change. I doubt he answered his own question, “No, but I’m too old to do what I want.”
Don’t accept getting old, and do what you want to do today.