The Courage to Live

This is an email I wrote to my best friend today.  After sending it I realized it might be worth sharing with the world.  

Dearest Holden,

Here I am.  Sitting in this little grey cubical at a client I could live with or without.  I’ve sent a few planning emails to clients for my upcoming weeks of travel.  I am executing yet another items request list for yet another client that I have in a few weeks.  So the process goes.

I imagine about right now you are being orientated (at his new job) in some way.  You probably feel a mix of feelings.  A feeling of “I made it” mixed with some excitement and maybe even a little nervousness.  You probably feel some need to rush on to your first project thinking “I just want to get started”.  Oh, and your ambition – your unlimited ambition to be promoted to the next level all to increase that paycheck and put a little more cushion and security between your family and the evils of poverty.

I’ll tell you what I’m thinking.  I am contemplating dreams.  Dreams of giving tourist sailing lessons and fruity drinks on some majestic Island or lake in the mountains.  Dreams of travel, adventure, and excitement.  Dreams of taking one-of-kind photos, writing stories about life, debating the economic and political future of the world.  Dreams where the monotony ends and the excitement doesn’t.  A life so full, so exhausting, and so lived that when I die I will be ready – without regret.

Ask yourself this Holden.  Is this the best your life can be lived?  For myself, sometimes I wonder.  When I die will I look back and say – I should have don it differently.  Or will I look back and say “Damn, that was awesome.”  I hope the latter is what’s in store for my future dying self – I only hope I have the courage to live that way.  Courage.  Courage to get out there and bust society in the mouth.  

Otherwise we’re beat.  We’re beat with the big stick of status quo.  I grin at my 22 days vacation.  I think that’s awesome.  Then I realize the other 250 work days a year I’m stuck wasting most of my time forgetting what it’s like to live a truly amazing life.

We are stuck behind the idea that we are “supposed to do”, “supposed to have”, “supposed to…”, and we so quickly forget what we need.  What we need to live amazingly.  Maybe all that we do is a means to the end – I just hope we realize it when that end comes.  I hope we make the leap.

So here’s to always remembering to be awesome.  Let’s get to it.

9 thoughts on “The Courage to Live

  1. theworldaccordingtomarc

    Very well put, Atticus. As a 56 year old, who has a fair amount of life behind him, I offer three retrospective points in descending order of importance: 1) no matter what you do in life, when you look back there WILL BE some regrets..that is life. The best measure of a life is the fruits of your labor and how fondly you look back on the memories they’ve brought you in-totality, 2) by the mere fact that you are considering such issues, you are way ahead ahead of most of your contemporaries, 3) there are essentially 2 choices in life, one by-and-large giving (extro-spective) in which you choose to make a life with a wonderful woman, have children, raise them in your best-effort image, and relish in the cycle-of-life, or you choose to make a life predominantly self-centered (intro-spective), wandering the world and making your statement in whatever way you feel fulfilled. Neither is better or worse, simply a statement of what fulfills you. Consider and choose wisely…

  2. Holden

    Very good stuff. But after I got this email I reminded my best friend that he lives a relatively cushy life style and told him to quit being a bitch. 🙂

  3. philebersole

    Atticus, this is a sad, sad post. It is sad because it is written by a young man just starting out in life and not by somebody burned out in middle age. But it is good that you are thinking about what is important in life. Far better to think about such things now, than when you are 40, 50 or 60.

    If I understand what you wrote correctly, your job is something you have to endure to get income, and the only meaningful part of your life is being able to do the things that income pays for. From my perspective, that is a terrible fate.

    I spent 40 years working for newspapers. I never earned the income that you apparently do, but almost every day I did or learned something interesting, and I felt that what I did was a useful contribution to my community. There were two times I became discontented in my job, but the first time I was able to find a new job and the second time I was able to retire.

    My best friend has taught at a community college in San Antonio for the past 20-some years. He teaches a lot of students who come from poor backgrounds, and who never got the education they needed in high school; he regards it as his mission to single-handedly make up for that, and he succeeds more often that I would think. When I visit him in San Antonio, he is constantly running into former students who think the world of him. His income is low compared to mine, but his life is rich in meaning and friendship.

    Now it’s true that in this world you can’t always do what you wish. I know a man with a degree in marine biology, a field which he loves, who is a floor manager in a Target store because the money for environmental studies is drying up. Such is life, especially in today’s economy.

    Please don’t think I’m passing judgment on you. Your concern for your parents, who failed you, shows you are a good person. I recognize that I’m not fully aware of your circumstances, and I also recognize that your generation faces more difficult economic choices than mine did. Also, please don’t think I’m complaining about my own or my friend’s economic circumstances. Both of us count ourselves fortunate compared to many others we know.

    My hope for you is that you find a way to transition into a job that you find more satisfying, and still provides a middle-class income for you and your future children. A law degree is a credential that could enable you to move in any number of directions—business, public service, the private practice of law, even journalism.

    Maybe someday you will become a real-life Atticus Finch.

    1. Atticus Finch

      I do not hate my job necessarily, but I have to be honest and admit that I do not particularly care for the actual work I do. The people are great, the benefits and security are great, the upward mobility is excellent, but – I’m not passionate about it.

      It’s just tough to convince yourself to go back to school, or change careers, when the outlook on the current position is so obviously good. That’s why I say I hope I have the courage to make the leap.

      It’s funny you mention law school because I have seriously contemplated it. I love economics, law, public service, politics and writing about it. Maybe that’s an option I will consider one day. (Soon?)

      I genuinely appreciate candid advice and I take it seriously. Thank you.


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