All around us, people are trying to tell us how to live.
Some mean it tongue-in-cheek, telling us “you’ve never lived until you’ve tried this,” before imploring someone to try a specific food they believe is superior to anything else.
Others mean it seriously. They say, “If you haven’t seen the world, then you haven’t lived.”
Or, “Come to this party, man. Live a little.”
It’s reinforced in movies and television. The tagline to Ben Stiller’s recent movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is “Stop dreaming. Start living,” implying that living is synonymous with going on a great big adventure through exotic lands. It’s a little pretentious.
When Kyle Reese tells Sarah Connor at the beginning of Terminator, “Come with me if you want to live,” he meant that literally. She needed to follow him to survive since he had come back in time to save her. So that doesn’t count.
But, anyway, the point is … what if, and I know this sounds crazy, but what if each individual person had their own unique interpretation for what it is “to live?”
For some, living is seeing the world. It’s taking a vacation every month to a new place you’ve never been before. As many different towns, cities, states, countries and continents you could fit into your schedule.
For others, it’s about having fun. Going to parties, trying new experiences, meeting new people.
And for others, it’s about immersing yourself in your work and trying to make a difference with the hand you’ve been dealt. We all work in different fields, but if we try hard enough in our respective careers, we all have the opportunity to get to the top and make our mark.
Either way, what I’m trying to say is that it’s easy to get caught up in what the popular, mainstream view of “living” is. We see our friends post pictures on Facebook, about advancing in their life and careers or seeing parts of the world you never have, and we think that they are taking advantage of their worldly opportunities better than we are.
But only we know what our own qualifications are for living a good life. What anyone else says is irrelevant. It means nothing.
This isn’t meant to be an “appreciate what you have; realize how lucky we have it, etc. etc.” type of spiel, but rather, a challenge for all of us to realize what makes us the most happy, and to figure out if we’re actually doing it. In all likelihood, you are. Because human beings tend to have a natural instinct do the things that make them happy.
Having never been to Europe doesn’t mean you haven’t lived. It just means that you haven’t been to Europe.
Other people might take a look at your daily routine and say this person isn’t “living,” but, if you think you’re doing all the things that you want to be doing, well, that sounds like living to me. There is no — and there will never be a — right answer.
Unless you’re idea of living is to be on reality TV.
Then you’re doing it wrong.