A few years ago, the phrase “YOLO” was all the rage. You Only Live Once. People used it to justify doing just about anything. However, how very true it is that you only get so many days, and no one knows just how many days they will have.
Almost exactly a year ago, I was home visiting my parents. My brother was driving home for an engagement party and I decided to tag along (mainly because my parents still paid for his gas, so I could get home for free). While there, I witnessed first-hand the cough my mom had that I heard on the phone. By Sunday we had finally convinced her to go to prompt care, where she received a chest x-ray and we started on a journey that changed the course of all of our lives. She got home from prompt care as my brother and I needed to hit the road back to Wisconsin. I very vividly remember sitting on the couch with her, optimistically thinking that maybe we were jumping to worst case scenarios. She knew at the time my job was crushing my soul. She knew that I was feeling suffocated and stuck in my life. My ever practical mom told me to quit my job. She told me to book all of the trips I had ever talked about. She said it goes faster than you can ever imagine. You only live once.
Three of the longest and yet shortest months of my life later, I had resigned from my job. I had moved home to be with her with no idea what would come next in my life. After my mom passed, I was stuck. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have a mom. I didn’t have direction. I was putting one foot in front of the other and even that was tedious. I applied for teaching jobs, not sure I wanted to teach anymore, not really sure what I wanted to do anymore. I knew I couldn’t go back to being miserable in a job. I wanted to move to a new city, but all things in my life seemed new and uncertain in the scariest of ways. Part of me wanted to stay in my childhood bedroom and pretend that life wasn’t scary. Part of me wanted to sell everything I owned and drift through the world.
I booked a trip to Colorado. I figured some time with my best friend and the mountain air would do me good. I started getting calls for jobs. My plane landed and I drove to Madison for several interviews. One thing lead to the next and I had accepted a job. For the first time in a long time. I felt good about something. I went on an annual road trip to Minneapolis with my hometown best friend. She listened for hours as I processed my life. On my way through Madison after Minneapolis I signed a lease. Things were moving forward, even if I felt like I was in a daze.
I remembered that conversation with my mom on the couch. She wanted good things and happiness for me. She wanted me to love my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. She wanted me to take control of the things I could control. There are a lot of terrible, ugly, awful things in this world. It can become very easy to become so scared of the bad that you don’t even want to seek out the good. It can be scary to start. Sometimes starting can actually be ending.
I started though. Somedays it is still hard to put one foot in front of the other. I get so very scared about navigating life without my mom. I remember how very quickly your life can be turned upside down. Sometimes that can make us scared to live life, other times it can make you want to soak in all life could possibly ever have to offer.
Tonight I booked a trip to Spain. This is a trip I’ve talked about since the wheels of my plane touched down following a trip to Paris in 2013. Tears streamed down my face as I entered my information. For a moment, I thought maybe it was because my precious savings account was about to take quite the hit. But then I realized it was because I’m doing exactly what my mom told me to do. They were happy tears. This is living. I’ve been living. It doesn’t have to be big, elaborate things like booking a trip. It’s making the choice to live the life you want, in all of the big and small ways. It is cliche. But it is cliche for a reason. None of us are immune to our on mortality. You only get so many trip around the sun. So make sure you are living the life you want to be living, even when it is hard and scary. After all, you only live once.