“When your life flashes before your eyes, make sure you’ve got plenty to watch.”
~Author unknown, from a television commercial
Recently my good friends Beth and Forrest had a post on their blog that just tremendously moved me, and I want to share some thoughts I had from it. It would be helpful if you saw the post for yourself before you read this one, so I suggest you go here right now and take a look:
The jist of the post was that she was recently doing their laundry and noticed that one of Forrest’s favorite orange Columbia fleece sweaters was looking a little thread-bare. His response was that “No way! I paid $70 for that fleece, it can’t be worn out!” So that got them curious and they wanted to know how old it was. They couldn’t figure it out, but they knew it was over 5 years old. But more importantly, they realized he had worn it everywhere! Out of curiosity they looked through their photo album to find exactly where it had been. The rest of the post is photos of Forrest (and Beth) wearing it in many, many places!
I counted it up and there were 25 different photos covering five years and in 15 different states. That is one well-traveled, well-used fleece!
($30-$50 at Amazon.com: Columbia Men’s Fast Trek II Half Zip Fleece )
I was tremendously moved by their post. I just thought of all the memories and experiences that must have come flooding back to them as they sat around the table looking at all of those photos, remembering the good and bad times that went with each of those trips and the people they had met and things they had done. I know that when I go back through my old photos I relive each of those experiences just like they had happened the day before. I know this sounds silly, but it actually brought a tear to my eye (yes, I really am an old, sentimental fool!). I knew I had to blog about that orange fleece pull-over.
My first thought was of that old saying, “He who dies with the most toys wins!” And I thought to myself no-way was that right! For me, the biggest winner in life is:
“He Who Dies With the Most Treasured Memories Wins!”
Have you ever thought about what makes a successful life? If you haven’t, how can you know if you are living a good life or not? Unfortunately, most of us just go along with society’s definition of a good life which is:
- conform to the rules,
- get an education and get a job,
- buy a house,
- get married,
- have kids,
- buy a lot of stuff,
- grow old and retire.
If that makes you happy, then in fact you have had a winning and successful life and I’m delighted for you. But, are you certain it made you happy? Or are you just going along to get along? Did you just convince yourself that, “This is what everyone does, I must be happy.” That’s exactly what I had done all my life, but after finally admitting to myself that I was really very unhappy, and had been for a long time, I decided that definition doesn’t work for me so I rejected it. I wanted more from life than what that offered me.
It seemed that the “Normal” definition of a successful life was almost totally based on accumulating things and stuff. But I found that when I got the stuff I was supposed to want, it just left me empty and wanting more stuff. No amount of accumulating made me happy. What’s worse, I had to spend so much time working to get the stuff and pay for a house to hold the stuff, I didn’t have any time or money left to do the things I really wanted to do. So I didn’t have any memories, just stuff! Worst of all, my only memories were of working at a job I hated to get more stuff! Those memories didn’t make me feel good inside at all!
However, each of us must define a successful life for ourselves and no one can tell anyone else what is best for them, least of all me.
If “He Who Dies With the Most Treasured Memories Wins!” is your definition of a successful life, then Forrest and Beth are world champion, gold-medal winners at life because in their few years they have accumulated a vast repertoire of grand memories!
What about you, do you have lots of treasured memories of different people, places and experiences? Have you had many adventures filled with pleasure and pain, success and failure? Have you traveled and seen and experienced the things you enjoy most? If not, why not? Are most of your memories of the things you’ve bought and the job you work at? Is that enough for you?
One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”
If it isn’t enough, do something about it! It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you are young like Forrest and Beth or an old guy like me, it’s not too late to start to build some memories. The first and most important step is to be open to and start searching for new experiences. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. Chances are good you’ve never really explored and gotten to know the area you live in. Try to look at your home city and state as an outsider and look for the wonders it has to offer and then go see them!
For most people, their children are their number one source of memories. But let me ask you this, what treasured memories are you leaving your children with? One of the greatest regrets in my life is that I didn’t leave my children with more memories. If I could do it over again I would raise them with the primary goal of leaving them with the most wonderful memories a child can have. I’d give them as many varied experiences as I possibly could. There would be a lot less “learning experiences” and a lot more time spent in nature and fun!
Treasured memories are all around you; you just have to be looking and open to them—and then go grab them!
After some serious thought I decided to add this one last thing. The son in these pictures is gone from this earth now and I won’t make any more memories with him. While I am tremendously pleased to have the memories I do have, my deepest regret and shame in life is that I didn’t make more.
Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us, make your memories today like you may not get another chance. For some of us, that is in fact the truth.
Please do me the kindness of refraining from commenting on the last two paragraphs.