Dear Me

Colorful VortexI think it is about time that I spoke with my teenage self. I want to let him know what I’ve learned throughout my adult life.

Let’s start with something simple but fundamental: do not be afraid of women. They can be wonderful and mysterious and generous and caring. Even though they intimidate you, it helps to actually talk to them and not take rejection too personally. It’s OK if you’re not their type. There are many women who will want to know you. Eventually, one will love you unconditionally.

Be who you are. Don’t worry that you like poetry more than football. If we all blended in with the crowd, there would be no change in this world. Do not live inside the prejudices of others. Change comes from being different, even if that means being ridiculed. One day you will be the difference that others envy.

Make choices from the infinity of your existence. Don’t live inside a box with a label on it. The labels are put there by others, people who see life through limitations.

Don’t let your ambitions become unrealized dreams. There are many bumps in the road to fulfillment but don’t take those as failure. Failure is giving up. Failure is accepting someone telling you that you’re not good enough. Failure is believing in the doubts and fears of others.

Take risks. When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. Later in life you will have responsibilities but now you have none except to yourself. A career is something people talk about to justify a job. Take your passions and make them work for you.

Don’t make enemies. Revenge is like gluttony. It’s satisfying for a moment in time but leaves you feeling ill. Rise above the petty grievances that weigh others down in meaningless pursuits. You are better than that.

Make a difference. It’s not about designer clothes, Swiss watches or German cars. The difference you make is about the people you meet, the positive thoughts that you can infect them with. The progress you make in your life can also be the progress for others. Greatness comes from impact.

Your life ends one minute at a time. Never waste a single moment. Live in the ecstasy of wonder, the joy of discovery. Cancel the dark thoughts with the exhilaration of what is possible. The light shines brightly from within you. Others may try to extinguish it but never dim that light yourself.

You are alive. It is the greatest gift of all.

Live it. Never be forgotten.

And I will never forget you. Because you are me.

Saving a Life

New York SubwayThe young man was counting twenty dollar bills in his hands when he moved forward and stumbled and fell on the subway tracks. It was right in front of me. I looked urgently at the digital sign above. It said a train was arriving in one minute. One minute.

A thousand images flashed before my eyes of people caught on cell phone cameras in moments of absolute mortal danger. You always wonder what you would do. What you would do if something like that happened in front of you.

And there it was. An opportunity to do something. Or nothing.

And then I realized I had jumped down onto the tracks, just like they tell you not to do. The same sign scrolling, “If you drop something on the track, leave it.” But I was dragging him up as best I could and heaving him back onto the platform. Thankfully, another man reached down and pulled him the last few inches to safety.

Looking down, I saw his twenty dollar bills scattered on the rails and I gathered them up and put them in his hand. I don’t know why I did that.

As I sat him up and talked to him, I could feel the air moving forcefully over me. It was the approaching train. The sign was flashing zero minutes to arrival of the next train. The train roared past, its driver, its passengers unaware of how the evening could have unfolded. The Lexington subway station closed because of an incident. People trying to capture video on their phones for the evening news. A young man died on the tracks tonight. Police do not know if it was an accident or a suicide. They are appealing for witnesses.

But he was alive.

I looked at the people around me and saw something I wasn’t expecting. The eyes of strangers set in judgment. Set in their negative judgment for the young man with long hair and dirty fingernails who had staggered onto the track.

There was no smell of alcohol but his eyes were distant, like they had been separated from the violence of the present. And the people judged him.

I felt awkward when he thanked me for saving his life. It wasn’t like the images on TV when you wonder what it would feel like to do something like that. I just felt sad. I was sad for the way we judge people for being down and out. And how we admire those who have more than us.

I went home on the subway, searching for the exhilaration of saving someone who no one cared about. That sign was still scrolling in my mind. If you drop something on the track, leave it.

Unless you want to save a life.

Final Words

Haunted HouseI signed my will at the weekend. They still call it a Last Will and Testament, conjuring up images of grieving relatives weeping at your bedside as you sigh your final breath and let go of this mortal coil to meet your maker.

But as I signed the document, my first thought was not of my grieving family but of a movie called the Cat and the Canary, starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. I saw that movie on TV when I was a small boy and, although it is a comedy, it scared the living daylights out of me.

In the movie, the will is read at midnight and the entire estate goes to the beautiful, young Paulette Goddard. But there’s a catch for the heiress: because of a concern about a streak of insanity in the family’s blood, she must stay sane for thirty days or lose the fortune to another family member.

Everyone has to stay the night in the spooky mansion, haunted by many spirits. It’s an open invitation for greedy relatives to drive her, overnight, into a state of total insanity.

I doubt there will be such drama when my will is read, even if there is a streak of insanity in my family’s blood. But signing your will does make you think about death. We’re all going to die, but thankfully, most of us don’t know when the end will be. So maybe we should start living as if this is our last day.

Well, if I was living each day as if it were my last, I can tell you that it would be one heck of a lot different from what it is. For a start, I would be eating a bacon, egg and cheese roll for breakfast. With a beer. And not organic muesli with skimmed milk.

And another thing, I would be spending all my money on a beach holiday with my friends and loved ones, partying till I drop. And not getting on the New York subway at 7 am to spend twelve hours in the grasping clutches of corporate America.

What’s more, I would get a sleeve tattoo and always speak my mind, whether people liked what I said or not. So no. Living each day like it is your last does not work at all. Unless you’ve inherited someone’s fortune.

Maybe living like we know that life won’t last forever is a better way to think about it. Just stop worrying about all the meaningless trivia and enjoy it while we still can. Before we’re all declared insane for eating organic muesli and getting on the subway at 7 am.

But I do like the thought of my will being read at midnight in a haunted mansion.

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