I recently watched a snippet of a video where a pensive man crossed mountain ranges and wide open land patches armed with only a backpack…and a camera crew, so that he could tell me that old people near death regret “not living”.
Apparently backpacking the world is “living”. So I guess I’m doing it wrong. Yet again.
My newest least favorite phrase is “you haven’t lived until you’ve…” and fill in the blank with some thing you’re not doing that is ruining your life but you don’t even know how much it’s ruining your life because you’re not doing it.
But boy will you regret it someday.
What’s fun is you can put anything in here, anything that you have actually done. Here’s a short list of things on which you can critique the “liveliness” of other peoples lives.
- Getting Married
- Traveling to Europe
- Climbing a Mountain
- Eating Exotic Foods
- Going to a Concert
- Breaking an Arm
- Getting Stitches
- Almost Dying
- Having a Child
- Catching a Fish/Hunting
- Going on a Road Trip
You can always come up with your own, though and that’s the beauty of this statement. 1) You get the superiority of having done something that qualifies your life on earth as “worthwhile and well spent”. 2) You get to tell someone else they’re doing it wrong. Who doesn’t love a good condescension?
The added bonus is that instead of focusing on what you can do to make your own life worthwhile, you can make other people regret things they never had plans to do, nor still want to do, but now think they should because they OWE LIFE.
And what if on their death bed this is the moment they look back and thing “why did I not go bungee jumping”?
First of all: Deathbed regrets are usually things that you GET TO regret. It means you’ve made it this far in life and you’re allowed to now say “given I got safely to the end, I wish I’d taken more risks in the middle”, but it’s that middle risky part that hard to determine how those risks would have turned out. It’s that age when fear gets in the way of throwing yourself through space to the earth, perhaps, or trying out deep sea diving.
As one of my favorite comedians John Richardson says, “I don’t understand why people are supposed to get over their fears. Fear is a legitimate thing to stop you from dying.” Getting to your deathbed alive is kind of something to be proud of. Of course, everyone makes it to their deathbed alive…uh oh, rabbit trail.
Second of all: Everyone is different. Don’t make the mistake of transmuting your fears and failures to another human as a way of getting a universal feeling of regret. Some people, no matter how much you may disagree, will never regret not going skydiving, spelunking, or any of a number of activities that could end with some kind of new tropical disease.
Nor are all adventures and new experiences feasible for all people. Just because you were able to enjoy something that changed your life does not mean it’s feasible for the person you’re gushing to about zip-lining through the Amazon. For some, no matter how amazing that may sound, it’s never going to be something they get to enjoy for any number of reasons.
For a lot of us, hearing your story is plenty. Do I want to go white water rafting in New Zealand? No I really don’t. But I DO want to hear about my friend who did. And I want to see pictures. She feels the same way about my movie marathons. (It’s totally the same thing)
You can’t experience everything in life. You just can’t. But there are stories out there from others who have experienced different things in life. Listen to those stories. Take time to hear about how other people have lived and add it to your own life.
Go do the things you want to do, or can do, and then hear about all the rest. Live a life of listening.