Life, is short.
I think I have to say that again.
Life. Is. SHORT.
We hear this in our music, all over the news, in our personal lives. We can all agree that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. But what can we do about it? What should we do about it?
I’ve recently lost a loved one for the first time in my life. Extended family members have come and gone throughout the years, I’ve watched my parents grieve relatives and friends, but I had never lost anyone near and dear to me before; and it touched me deep to my very core.
I often complain to myself about how sensitive and emotional I am and how the result is that I inevitably get hurt more than the average person. I’m not fragile, no. I’m actually the strongest person I know besides my Mother, but I feel like you can’t imagine. As Rupi Kaur, a wonderful young poet and writer said, “When I am sad I don’t cry, I pour; when I am happy I don’t smile, I beam; when I am angry I don’t yell, I burn; [and] when my heart is broken I don’t grieve, I shatter.”
I’ve learned to diligently and relentlessly search for the good in every situation life throws my way, and the one positive result this loss brought about was the stark reminder that life is short. And that most of us are not even living it. Don’t know about you, but I am too passionate not to live.
So. What did I do about it?
I decided that although I was sad, I needed to be with the person who was hurting the most, the person who’d just lost her Mother. I couldn’t imagine her pain, and all I knew was that I needed to be there to hold her, and kiss her, and let her know I loved her.
I was scared. I put my job on the line, and not only that, but I was going to look grief in the face. I didn’t know if I could handle it.
My own Mother sent me a message a few days after I’d shared my decision and she told me how proud of me she was. She told me that my commitment and love for my family reminded her of the moment in the Bible when Mary dropped everything to visit her cousin Elizabeth at the news of her pregnancy. She told me she was proud of my courage.
I told her I got it from her.
I picked up and flew to Paris, and it changed my life.
I fell in love in Paris. I fell in love with the architecture, the people, the air, the pain au chocolat and Nutella crêpes. I fell in love with the beautiful homes in nearby Eaubonne, the farmer’s market filled with gorgeous charming men, the required morning walk to the boulangerie for the day’s baguette, and the multitude of cultures represented. I fell in love with the way my lips moved when I spoke French and the sound of my voice when I said “Bonjour.” I fell in love with travel all over again and with the idea that I am a Citizen of the World.
Suddenly, I remembered that I like to take pictures, and see new places, and meet new people, and write poetry and screenplays and books and blog posts. I remembered that I like to draw with a glass of wine in my left hand while listening to Classical music or Smooth Jazz. I remembered that I like to pretend that I can sing, and play the piano, and dance in the rain, and make love. I remembered that I like to act, that I love to act, that I light up when I’m on set, that I revel in the thrill of the butterflies before I step on stage. I remembered that I am an artist.
I remembered what it feels like, what it ought to feel like, to be alive. And I remembered that I wasn’t living.
I’d settled, and I knew this.
I’d settled for a job that gave me just enough to survive so I could convince myself I was living my dream. I’d settled for a position that made me feel like I could explain my choice to be an artist away by saying, “I’m an artist, but I’ve got a full-time job too.” I’d settled for auditioning every blue moon and embraced the illusion that that would be enough to call myself an actor, even when I turned down opportunities and auditions left and right because I knew they’d conflict with my day job. I’d settled for welcoming travelers into my home, instead of traveling myself. I’d pushed down all of the discomfort associated with knowing I wasn’t living to the fullness of my potential and let my fear of the unknown keep me semi-warm in a flimsy net of “security.”
There is no security. Life is too unpredictable for any of us to ever feel secure.
My time in Paris was short because of my work responsibilities, and the day I was supposed to come home, all the signs pointed to the idea that I should be staying. The metro was a mess, and the train that would have taken me to the airport on time was cancelled due to the current strikes in the city. I couldn’t get a cab to save my life, even as my family and friends called everyone they knew. My Uber app insisted my credit card was invalid and refused to schedule a car for me. It was comical.
I like to think of myself as a young Santiago in The Alchemist, so I’ve learned to pay attention to the signs. They’d been speaking to me for a while.
My brother has a dry eraser board in his living room on which the words “I am” are permanently penned. Every time I visit I complete the sentence, for him, for his wife, for me. The day I flew out, right before leaving for Paris, I wrote, “…better than this.”
It was time for a change.
I quit my job, slash got fired. I think that when you request a meeting to discuss your decision to leave a company and are told to simply come pack your stuff, you can safely assume you’ve been let go. I’m grateful for that. Man plans, God does. The process was accelerated. Another sign.
I don’t have a paying job right now, but I feel more fulfilled spending those 8 hours working on my dreams, rather than sustaining someone else’s. I’m a smart girl. My passions have taught me about the unpredictability of life so I always have a bit of savings stashed away for times like this, when dear old Mr. Murphy shows up to shuffle my life around. But this time, instead of panicking and scrambling to find a new job, I’m going to live. I’m going to travel. I’m going to go back to Paris and reclaim the inspirations I found there, and write and audition. Maybe I’ll stop and see friends in Italy; roll over to Germany, where I still have family; make the trip to Russia, to see my 80-year-old Babushka- the only grandma I’ve ever known; take a moment to visit Portugal, because why not; can’t go there without popping over to Spain, so I can practice my Spanish; and if I’m going to be in Spain, I must go to Morocco, because Tangier has been calling me for over a year now.
I don’t know. As I said, life is unpredictable.
I’d like to leave you with this:
What are you doing with your life? Are you truly aware of how short it really is, and if so, what are you doing about it? Are you pursuing your passion? Are you working on your dreams? Are you making memories and spending time with those who matter to you? Are you living? Don’t think for a second that I have the luxury of dropping everything and traveling because I’m wealthy. I am so not wealthy (yet). I’m blessed in that I do not have any children I’m responsible for yet, I do not have a partner to consider, and I do not have a damn thing to lose.
Of course I’m terrified about what I’ll do when I get back, but I know that I don’t have the luxury of time either, and that this is what I’m supposed to do right now. All I can focus on is: Right. Now.
It’s called faith.
So what can you do right now? Can you start writing the book? Can you take steps towards putting up the show? Can you record the song and put it on iTunes or something? Can you be a blessing to someone else? Can you start working for yourself?
Let me know what your first step will be.
In the meantime, I send you lots of Love, and good vibes to guide you.