While in London, in Brixton, I mentioned to Marita how desperate I was to read Tuesdays With Morrie. She received her copy from a dear friend and couldn’t give it to me, but when I returned to Los Angeles a week later, a copy was waiting for me at my door. In London, when I said I wanted to read it, I wanted it for nothing more than a time killer while bussing, train-ing, and plane-ing from country to country. Now that I’ve started it, it’s damn near speaking to my core.
“Well, the truth is, if you really listen to that bird on your shoulder, if you accept that you can die at any time–then you might not be as ambitious as you are.”
I forced a small grin.
“The things you spend so much time on–all this work you do–might not seem as important. You might have to make room for some more spiritual things.”
“You hate that word, don’t you? ‘Spiritual.’ You think it’s touchy-feely stuff.”
Well, I said.
He tried a wink, a bad try, and I broke down and laughed.
“Mitch,” he said, laughing along, “even I don’t know what ‘spiritual development’ really means. But I do know we’re deficient in some way. We are too involved in materialistic things, and they don’t satisfy us. The loving relationships we have, the universe around us, we take these things for granted.”
I come across these words sitting poolside at The Raven Hotel in New Hope, PA, and suddenly my mind is full of the too many people around me working too hard on things they feel are important, but finding enough time to whisper to me, “you need to sit your ass down somewhere.” I’ve tried sitting still, taking the 8-5 jobs that looks amazing on my resume, and rummaging through first-time homeowner pamphlets, but I kept remembering two of the deathbed regrets of a great man:
- “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”
- “I wish I had let myself be happier.”
And I’m grown enough to know happiness is different things to different people. Jack was happy signing the papers and holding up the keys to his new car in the photos he sent while I was getting my first Morocco stamp. I don’t want to sit down. I want to find everything I feel is spiritual out in the world, come home and share them with the folks in my mama’s church. Imagine the look on their face when I tell them I was god to a young man hitchhiking down the Pacific Coast Highway trying to get to Big Sur. The look on his face when I dropped him off telling him to “pay it forward” proved it. I don’t want to sit down.
I’m surrounded by 8-5’ers who’ve stopped loving their lives years ago and fell victim to routine. 8-5’ers I want to throw into a gutted Volkswagen Bus and take onto the open road with all the windows open and watch them strip down to their skivvies while throwing their ties, pumps, and contracts out the window before jumping off the cliff into some body of water.
8-5’ers don’t like talking about death. Saying if you accept that you can die at any time will be met with blank stares and a change of conversation. They’ve convinced themselves there is always time to do the things they really want to do in life after they do the things others said they should do. Things like sitting still for a while and working a job they don’t want to get to a place they don’t want to be.
My passport doesn’t solve all my problems by far. I’m still broker than most, I have to wash clothes each week because I don’t have many, and my underwear keep disappearing, but I smile when I flip through it, remembering being left by ID Bus at the French/UK border, catching a rugby match with my favorite bloke, Tom, and watching Camonghne’s face light up while screaming “this is the father of western politics y’all!”
I’ve been having the same conversation with Devin for 9 years. He hates his job, but it pays for the life be tolerates. He wishes he could be “carefree” like he believes I am, but “bills, bills, bills.” Blah blah blah. He’ll be the first on the kidnapping list. He needs spiritual development.
My happiness doesn’t fit everyone. Devin would jump off a bridge if he was ever left at the French/UK border in November while his bags and heavy coat were on the bus that left him. Hell, going broke in America for more than a few days would have him sweating and hiding under a rock. He’s more the structured type, and that’s good for him, but each time we talk, I beg him to just try to go out there and live a bit. Try something new like I did when I took that job at that school. He got his passport last week.
My family and friends say I speak about death too much. Each year I update my funeral plans (just in case), and I talk to my mom about when to pull the plug if some freak accident should occur. I give Jill all my updated passwords so everything can run as usual, and I make sure everything I’ve created can be found in a cool spot in case I was an artist before my time. I look at the world like it won’t always be here, and I go out there to see as much of it as possible. When I can’t afford a flight to Amsterdam from Los Angeles, I find a new patch of grass in the city to explore, and new cuisine to brag about. I take photos of the sun setting at least 5 nights a week in case it’s the last I’ll see, and I look for cheap tickets to any place each day in case I can miraculously afford one. I don’t want to sit still. There’s too much universe.
What if I told you that for $116 dollars, maybe less if you take your own photo, you can buy a thing that will get you into places that will provide you with all the spirituality, happiness, energy, and growth you can stand? This thing exists. Stop sitting still.