The other day I was speaking with a friend who said, “I want to travel, but I can’t do it now since I’m just a student.”
She had the sense, as many do, that the time to do what she wants will come “eventually.”
But what if it doesn’t.
If you are a law student, how would you live if you knew that you would die before you finish articling?
If you are a medical student, what difference would it make in how you conduct yourself if you knew that you would die before you finish residency?
If you plan to be a teacher, can you imagine how you might go about your education if you knew that you would die before completing your practicum?
In a sense, we all die in the midst of things. There is no perfect fulfilment or complete satisfaction in the temporality of this life.
People die before all of their children are married or before all of their grandchildren are born.
Many die much earlier, too.
Whatever you would wish to do eventually, begin doing now. As Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “The force of character is cumulative.”
And it’s about cultivating an identity, not collecting achievements.
Consider this perspective from Jeff Bethke in his book To Hell With the Hustle:
Some people, when they begin a new hobby, get a huge burst of ambition. Take running, for example. They’ll almost immediately tell themselves, I want to run a 10K or half marathon by this time next year. That’s helpful and great. But I think a better approach is to focus on identity: I want to be someone who runs as a normal part of my life. Or, I will run at least five minutes five days a week.
There’s no finish line. Nothing to really accomplish. Make it more of a practice or way of life that will hopefully stay with you for the next sixty years. Because it’s not about the marathon. It’s about I’m a runner. And the latter to me seems to bring longer, deeper, richer benefits.
I will die as a traveller, not as someone who wanted to travel.