“You are crazy. I don’t understand why you are doing this,” my mother commented. She couldn’t understand why my best friend, Mary, and I were going on a hot air balloon ride. She thought the whole idea was nuts and dangerous. Mary and I thought the opposite. It was something we wanted to do. We both have a philosophy about living life to the fullest and trying new things.
Last Saturday, we had a ride of a lifetime at The QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Whitehouse Station, NJ. We both agreed that we would definitely ride in a hot air balloon again.
My mother said the same thing to me a couple years ago as I was planning my trip to Israel. I went with 15 other people, 9 of which were from my church. My mother thought I was nuts. She would constantly say one of the following phrases to me:
“Don’t get lost.”
“Don’t get shot.”
“Stay away from ISIS.”
My response probably didn’t calm her nerves either. I would say:
“Mom, if I get killed, at least I will die in the same place where my Lord walked. I can’t think of a better way to go.”
As I mentioned in a previous post, my 20s were a emotional rollercoaster. My early 30s started of okay, but I didn’t begin to come out of my shell until my 33rd birthday. I was on a mission, a mission to live and get out there. I craved adventure and wanted to live life as I intended to live it and not how society expected me to live it.
Prior to my 20s I was a real nerd and bookworm. Many people wish they tried harder in school. My biggest regret was working too hard in school. A couple years ago, I was talking to an high school student entering his senior year and I repeatedly told him, “Don’t be like me. Don’t work too hard. Have a good time and enjoy yourself.”
By the time I was halfway through high school my own mother was constantly saying to me: “Just aim for the 65.” She saw how stressed and overly focused I was with my studies. When your own parents tell you to not try so hard, you know something is up. I wasn’t an exceptional student, either. I didn’t take AP classes, nor was I in the honors program like both of my older sisters were. I took my first and only honors class in my senior year, which was a year-long math course in pre calculus and calculus I.
Instead of taking AP classes, I took courses for college credit. That was a smart move on my part because when I started my freshman year in college, I already had 9 college credits toward my degree, which went toward my general education requirements.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Like many students, I fell for the old myth that you do well in school to get into college and go to college to get a good job. Yeah, my first job out of college was in retail and I made less than minimum wage. I remember feeling quite discouraged in my 20s because I was working jobs that didn’t require a degree. Nowadays however, most jobs do require a degree because the college degree has become what the high school diploma was 50 years ago. This is an unfortunate reality, especially when you consider the cost of a college education these days.
I graduated high school Magna Cum Laude. I remember my cumulative GPA was like an 89.93 or something like that. I remember being upset because it wasn’t a 90. There were 147 graduates in my class and I was in the top quarter. Not too shabby right?
I was quite proud of my academic achievements, but those hard-earned achievements came at a huge price: it nearly cost me my entire social life. I didn’t do a lot of exciting things during my high school years. Sure, I did extracurricular activities and visited prison (see The Day I Visited Prison), but I rarely attended parties and on senior cut day, I attended all my classes. My life was all about hard work and doing well in school. My idea of a good time on a Friday night was doing math homework (Math was my absolute favorite subject). I felt that working hard would pay off in the long run. It really didn’t because I missed out on so much. I missed out on being a regular teenager with a social life, spending time with my friends that didn’t always include studying and doing homework. To be completely honest, I did not enjoy my high school years at all.
Though I did enjoy most of my college studies, my habits were not much different from my high school ones. I spent lots of time studying and practicing piano. I had a full schedule and again, focused more on doing well. Because I lived on campus, I was able to attend certain campus events and parties, but my main focus was to learn and do well. For me it was less about the college experience and more about getting an education. I think with most people it is the other way around.
Now at nearly 35 years of age, I seem to be making up for lost time. The things I never would have done in my younger days, I am doing now. I got out more and always keep busy outside of work. My mother once told me that I live like a gypsy because I am always running around and doing different things, which include some traveling. Outside of my church activities, I always make time for going out with and spending time friends. I often go out on weeknights, which I never did as a high school student.
Life is short and I don’t want to miss out on enjoying life like I did in my younger years. I don’t want to reach the end of my life with a bunch of regrets like “I wish I didn’t work as hard,” or “I wish I wasn’t so serious all the time.” I find that the older I get, the less I focus on how much I own, but rather what wonderful experiences I have had. I focus less on what I have learned from books and more on what I have learned from my actual life experiences. Most importantly, I don’t care so much about making a lot of money, but rather making a lot of wonderful memories.
We all are doing to die someday. When I lie on my deathbed, I am not going to think about what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had, what kind of job positions I held, or how well I did in school. I am going to think about the many experiences I have had and the people with whom I shared them. Memories come from life experiences and I want to have plenty of happy ones. Some experiences may just happen to us, but we can create our own experiences, too. Aristotle once said:
“Memory is the scribe of the soul.”
And so I leave you with one question, what do you want to be written in your soul?