It’s a little after 9 a.m., and you just finished off your lukewarm breakfast sandwich and plastic bottle of orange juice. You push the tray away and turn your head to the right to look outside. The sun is up, not many clouds out there, and you see a couple finches flutter in and out of a tree branch just outside your third floor window. You smile at the natural beauty for a beat or two.
Your kids will come to visit shortly, and your spouse is off somewhere arranging your hospice care. You’ve got a month left, maybe two if you’re lucky, and you can’t wait to get home and out of this God-forsaken hospital bed.
For now, though, all you can do is think – gazing out the window; past the tree and the birds into infinity, you look back at your life and the choices you made. You can’t help but wonder if you did everything you could, if you took full advantage of the gift you were given.
When your life is seen through this prism –knowing it is now the end and you can’t go back and change what you’ve done – will you be satisfied with the story it tells?
Did you go after your dreams, or did you play it safe? Did you avoid risk because you didn’t want to experience failure, only to realize you’ve avoided failure at the expense of finding your true happiness?
When you look at life this way, in reverse, from the end back instead of from the beginning forward, you might just discover you’re not where you should be. These things have a way of getting away from us when left unconsidered; a series of sensible decisions in the moment summate into a giant unconscious compromise in the end.
If you’re living the story you want to tell, don’t stop living it. Maybe you can’t see the happy ending from where you stand – and being that there are no guarantees of a happy ending for anyone, maybe you never will see it. Even in that outcome, you win while losing. You can slip quietly into your twilight knowing you left everything out there, you did everything you could, and you wouldn’t change a damn thing if you had another chance. You may be without the currency of success, but what you will possess is a serenity worth much more; indeed the only thing that will ultimately be worth possessing.
If you’re not living your story, change your direction. Now. You may not be able to change your position instantly – but you can change which way you’re facing. It won’t be easy, it will be uncomfortable, and it might even appear to teeter on the edge of disastrous. It will be an investment, though, in the kind of satisfaction that you’ll never find otherwise.
Some people in your life won’t understand right now, and some never will. They will question what you’re doing, take a smug satisfaction in pointing out how likely it is that you will fail, and then call you “lucky” when your risk pays off and you work your way to what you always wanted. Let them be; pity them, even. You’ve got more important things to focus on.
The story you want will change as you grow – if it didn’t, NASA would be overrun with millions of aspiring astronauts – but the words aren’t as important as the desire to write them. Never give up on your story.
We only get one shot at this. Make it count. Find your perfect ending, and walk it back to the start.