When I lost my brother I became aware of my own mortality. Most people, on average, don’t become aware of their own mortality until their 30’s which is often around the time people begin to lose their parents. Explaining how it feels to know that every single day could be your last day, realizing that accidents and unfortunate tragedies lurk around every corner, it refocuses your life. You think twice about speeding, you think twice about crossing the street without looking, and you think twice about even the most mundane or routine choices. I suddenly found myself redefining my existence.
I was listening to a Ted Talk on my way to work this morning by Candy Chang titled, “Before I die I want to...” and I wanted to share it with all of you.
Candy talks about what happened to her after she lost her mother figure. She wanted to do something with her grief, she needed a way to work through her loss so she built a huge chalkboard on an abandoned building with the phrase, “Before I die I want to…” She left chalk out and found that members of the community began to fill in all the things they wanted to do before they died. It reminded me of a wishing tree I saw in San Francisco last year. A family who lives my Aunt’s neighborhood every year around the holidays turns the tree that sits in front of their home into a wishing tree. They hang blank tags and pens for passers by to write and hang their wishes. There were all sorts of wishes from silly trivial wishes like what presents someone wanted for Christmas to wishes to overcome diseases for themselves or loved ones. The idea is similar to Candy’s, it gets the community to reflect and look within themselves to voice what we are often too scared or intimidated to admit.
Taking a thought from your head and writing it down so you can look at it and hold it changes you. Sometimes thoughts can seem so intimidating or terrifying that I have to write them down to realize it’s not something I need to be overwhelmed by. Or sometimes if there is something I am terrified to commit to or pursue I have to write it down to figure out just what the first are steps towards completing it. Like running my first marathon, I had to share that I signed up to force myself to do it. I had to take the words in my brain, write them down to silence the "you can't do its" and "you'll never try," and put it out into the universe to make it real. Too often we give up on ourselves or our “bucket lists.” We forget about or cast aside the things we always wanted to do. Then you wake up one day, months, years, or decades have passed and you’ve been so consumed with day to day life that you forget about your ambitious hopes, wishes, and dreams. You forget to travel, be charitable, and challenge yourself and that's a shame because your life can change, or end, in a breath.
We're busy. I understand that everything requires money. Some things just may actually be unrealistic. I want you to take a second to ask yourself, before I die I want to... I want you to write down a list of things you want to do before you die and I want you to start working towards one. Life is incredibly precious. Something I learned when I lost my brother is that there really isn’t much time to waste and that being happy is a choice. His death taught me the importance of pursuing positivity in the shittiest of situations. Sometimes life just doesn’t go your way. Sometimes you don’t get treated or rewarded the way you deserve. Too often you not only get kicked when you’re down but run over and buried alive. It’s not fair. Life is never going to be fair. No one is going to advocate for you like you can advocate for you. Ask yourself how you can continue putting one foot in front of the other, with a smile on your face, in even the shittiest of situations. If you've dug yourself into a whole, don't dig yourself out, just keep digging. You'll come out the other side eventually.
Challenge yourself. Make that list and start figuring out how to make them happen. Don’t look at it like a New Year’s resolution but just a life goal. Don't wait for the right moment because that moment is never going to happen. The only time that actually exists is right now.
Here are some of mine:
1. Have someone tell me I changed their life.
2. Run a marathon in every single continent.
3. Make healthy choices.
4. Challenge myself.
5. Be more active in my community.
6. Go to another country.
7. Be as transparent and honest as possible.
8. Make someone laugh every single day.
9. Pay for someone who deserves to go to college.
10. Make imaginative, challenging, and evolving art.
11. Complete an Ironman.
12. Run a sub 4 hour marathon.
13. Change the world.
Lofty shit. Will I do any of them? I haven’t a clue. Will I fail if I don’t complete them? Nope. It’s just some of the many, many things I want to do before I die. Because ask yourself if you were to die tomorrow, what didn't you do? The clocks ticking. Tomorrow is going to be here before you know it. Do it for yourself. So, what do you want to do before you die? Until tomorrow, #RunSelfieRepeat.