Ever since COVID-19, life has changed dramatically. For us, we’ve been fortunate — things haven’t been too bad; I do miss being able to go out and take my time window shopping at grocery aisles, but is that really a problem when there are so many more people more unfortunate than we are?
We moved back to the States a little less than a year ago, after 3 years of non-stop traveling. The travel was fun, but moving from place to place wasn’t; and when you’ve been to enough cities in short enough the time, travel loses its magic — moments that should feel special don’t, and the last thing we wanted was to lose our appreciation for travel.
More importantly though, we came home because we missed family.
There’s something magical about being in the presence of a loved one’s smile, to bask in the familiarity of their habits, to revel in the echoes of their laughter that you can’t get through video alone.
But living at home has its disadvantages too — especially when you’re no longer twelve but thirty-two…and with your then-girlfriend-now-wife.
For one, there’s a lack of privacy — my parents do their best in respecting boundaries, but because we we live in a small home and the walls are thin, getting intimate on most nights (or really any night) can be a challenge.
Even trickier, is navigating around the inevitable conflicts that happen from the clashing of very different perspectives belonging to the cultures of two generations.
But despite it all, we’re still grateful to be home, to be around those we love most after considering the alternative: what if, we hadn’t come home? What if, we were still traveling, thousands of miles away in Southeast Asia?
Would we still have had the opportunity to be with our loved ones before it was too late?
Because very real is the current situation where none of our tomorrows are guaranteed; today, could be our last.
Our mortality is something many of us avoid thinking about because when we die, it doesn’t just mark the end of our lives, but of who we can become. When we die, our dreams die with us — and that’s terrifying because most of us have even truly yet to live.
Steve Jobs, in his 2005 commencement speech at Standford, said:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, some day you’ll most certainly be right.”
It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”
And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Because almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
And in the very same commencement speech, Steve Jobs went on to say:
About a year ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was.
The doctor told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you had the next ten years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening, I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope, the doctor started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and thankfully, I’m fine now.
Seven years later, Steve Jobs was diagnosed again with the same pancreatic cancer, but this time, he wouldn’t survive it.
Most of us drift through life without asking ourselves — is what I am about to do today really what I want to be doing? Are these the relationships I really want to have?
We follow the expectations of others simply because it’s what everyone else has always done. We hold back on the lives we want because we tell ourselves there’s time — maybe after we’ve retired, we say. Maybe tomorrow.
…but what if, there’s no tomorrow?
What if, today was all we had?