“So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, through Gandalf, Fellowship of the Ring
10 years ago, I was a 24 year old single guy, working my way up through corporate America. I rarely took vacation time. I lived alone. I had a 401K plan. I had employees. I had a predictable life.
Then, something changed.
On a trip to Israel (my first two week vacation since I was in high school) something woke up inside me. I realized that life was too short to live worrying about my future at someone else’s company. Within two years I had quit my job and gone back to school. Suddenly, I found myself at the southern tip of Argentina, in the southernmost city in the world, in a country where I did not speak the language, in view of where the Andes mountains meet the ocean.
I was hooked. A few days later I was standing above the Iguacu Falls in Brazil. Then, the harbor of Rio Di Janeiro. It wasn’t enough…
…and yet, it had to be. I was just on my Spring Break. I had to finish up my degree. And then, I had to pay my bills. I was staring down the barrel of 30 and at some point I knew I would want to settle down and have a family.
But there was just so much more I wanted to see. I wanted to see Europe. I wanted to go to the great national parks of the United States. I wanted to stand at the front of a ship on the open sea and feel the true majesty of our blue planet. I wanted to look up and see the Milky Way and understand just how small we all are in the grand scheme of the universe.
Stonehenge, Yellowstone, Bora Bora, I wanted to see it all.
And I did. All while graduating from college and re-entering the world of productivity. Without destroying my future by drowning in debt. Oh and I also got married.
To be fair, I haven’t seen “it all” – but I’ve seen as much as I’ve been able to. It hasn’t been easy. I made a lot of mistakes. Wasted a lot of money. Slept on airport floors. Got trapped on a sand dune in 120 degree heat. Clung to the side of a rock wall as tractor trailer spend by, less than five feet from my back. I want to share those experiences with you so that you don’t make the same mistakes.
Now as I sit in the LAX international terminal with my wife, for what seems to be our last great adventure for a while, I can’t help but reflect on what the future will be like as we think about starting a family, with more responsibilities piling up on a daily basis. And in these uncertain times in 2017, it’s easy to be be paralyzed by what the future holds. But these thoughts are wasted energy.
For as I learned 10 years ago, sitting and lamenting the life you are living or the times you find yourself trapped in does you no good. We don’t get to choose WHEN we live, all we have is to decide WHAT to do with the the time that is given to us.
My is advice is to decide to use your time wisely.