It is not the years in your life that count – it is the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln has been credited with this quote, but it’s not clear who actually wrote it. That said, I think that this sentiment is one that many have expressed over the years for one reason – it’s true. Life is precious. We are beings with no real answers about why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing. Many of us have religious and scientific beliefs about the answers, but no one really knows. What we do know, though, is that life is precious, fragile, and up to us.
Some of the most influential people in history have been those with short experiences on this planet. Mattie Stepanek – a gentle soul and frequent guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show who passed at only 14 due to complications from Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy – wanted to be remembered as “a poet, a peacemaker, and a philosopher who played.” Ryan White died at only 18 after contracting HIV from a blood transfusion, but became a spokesperson for the entire HIV/AIDS community. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger, Tupac, Georges Seurat, Vincent van Gogh, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and so many other artists passed early, but left their stamp on this world before going. It is not the amount of time that you’re here, it is truly what you do with it.
You don’t need to be a visionary, an artist or a public speaker in order to leave your mark. You can leave your kindness, your hugs and kisses, stories of your youth, your talent for knitting or so many other things. The mark that you leave can be with hundreds of thousands of people or only a few that matter greatly to you. The point is to put yourself out there. Make yourself just a bit vulnerable so that you can connect with people (as many or as few as you are comfortable) and live your life so that they see the real you.
Not comfortable with vulnerability? Go climb a mountain with a friend. Try one of those indoor skydiving places or head over to a skydiving center and try the real thing. At the end of our lives, we won’t be thinking of things like deadlines or phone calls to clients that we meant to make. We will be thinking of the people that we love and the experiences that we had. Make sure you are including some “real life” in your years.
One of my favorite reminders of this is the song “I Lived” by OneRepublic (below). Give yourself the gift of bookmarking it so that you can listen when you need/want to or purchase it and keep it with you. Enjoy the life that you were given to the fullest so that when you are at the end, you can say that you lived.