Last night as I lay in bed about to fall asleep, I had an existential moment. I imagined I was in a hospital bed, about to be intubated because of the coronavirus, and I had a fleeting moment to share a few dying words with my wife and son. As I literally lay there trying to think of what to say, I wondered to myself — have I had a good life? If I were actually about to die, would I be satisfied with what I’d done in my 53 years on the planet?
The coronavirus pandemic has put most of us on edge. For some of us, it has simply been an inconvenience. For those of us with underlying medical conditions, perhaps it has caused you a moment or two of panic like I had with my bedtime musings last night. I’ll be honest, because of my heart issues along with being a lifelong asthma sufferer, it has freaked me the fuck out. I know this virus is probably not going to kill me. Still, it has made me think about my life and that, my friends, is a good thing. Here me out.
In 2012 when I suffered a near fatal heart attack, I took stock of my life up to that point and decided I needed to make a few changes. In my heart of hearts, I knew I was unhappy in my career and nearly dying enabled me to find the strength to leave public relations and become a nonprofit fundraiser. Eight years on, I know I made the right decision.
It turns out, a crisis is a natural time to take stock in your life and an even better time to make a change. I don’t know if it’s the best time to make a big life change, but I’d argue it’s as good a time as any. Lord knows you probably have the extra time to do a life inventory since you’re stuck at home with nothing to do but binge watch Ozark and sleep on the sofa.
On my walk this morning I thought more about the people I know who made big life decisions and in every case, it turned out to be for the better.
…I thought about my buddy Dan, who in his forties realized he was unhappy in his marriage and his career was unfulfilling. His father died, and he used that big moment to get divorced, quit his job, and go back to school to become a doctor.
…I thought about my pal Eugene, who was divorced, hadn’t graduated from college, was overweight, and was unfulfilled in his career. He found the strength to go back to school to finish his degree, and in the past few years he has dedicated himself to fitness (he has lost a ton of weight), found a wonderful new woman, became a father again, and is doing fulfilling work.
…I thought about my friends Mike and Michelle, who moved from California to a small town in South Dakota to make a better life for their severely autistic son.
…I thought about my friend Julia who just announced to the entire world that she was transitioning to become Julian.
…I thought about my friend Cameo who in her late forties just got married and recently adopted twin baby girls.
…I thought about my friend Reggie who recently lost his eldest son to suicide who has turned that tragedy into a book and has become a champion for mental health awareness.
…I thought about my friend Sara who left her life behind in Vietnam and moved to America to find her birth father and live the American dream.
I thought about all my friends, and there are far too many of them, who are dealing with cancer, or heart disease, or some other serious medical condition. And moving forward with life one step at a time.
These are just a small handful of the heroes I know. Think about all the others out there making big moves. I guess what I’m saying is that life is short, and in times like this why not begin to take the steps necessary to live a more authentic life, whatever that means to you. I understand there are a lot of barriers to change right now with so much of the world shuttered, so just begin with what you can. Start doing research. Take some small steps. Start a plan to get where you want to go.
- Refresh your resume
- Start planning your retirement
- Call a divorce lawyer
- Start writing that novel
- Come out
- Start looking for a job in Bend, Oregon or San Luis Obispo, California or Durango, Colorado
- Sign up for an acting class
- Run for public office
Don’t get caught on your death bed wondering what if.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”Henry David Thoreau