What does it mean to truly live?

No sun on the Rockies
Not even the light of day
I feel that old cabin fever comin’ on
But I know where I’ll be
When lady luck finally blows my way
She’ll put the wind in my sails and I’ll be gone

It won’t be long before my ship comes in
Gonna sail right out of Colorado
Catch a ride on a warm trade wind
Where no one knows
She’ll find me waitin’ when my ship comes in
Gonna board and go whichever way the wind blows
I’ll be off to find myself once again
And where no one knows
When my ship comes in…

~ When My Ship Comes In by Clint Black

Few of us know what it means to truly live, and we go through each day of our lives simply existing. A heart beat. An intake of breath. A neuron firing in the brain. Always busy doing something and going somewhere, trying to beat the clock. We seem to walk an endless distance, believing that all that busyness must have paid off, but when we look up and realize that time has passed and we’re in the exact same place we were ten years ago, and nothing has changed except that our hopes and dreams seem to be even further out of reach, we wonder what could have possibly happened? We don’t ever remember stepping on a treadmill.

I think the culprit lies in our way of thinking, in believing that the word “someday” will carry us into the future and make all our dreams come true. This one word embodies all our deepest passions and desires. It is the sum of all that we want to accomplish in life. The hope that “someday I will…” enables us to weather any storm, knowing that tomorrow will be brighter than today. But someday is a dangerous word, because we often use it as an excuse to wait around and do nothing. Deep down we all know that someday does not exist, and tomorrow never comes. We know that we must actively pursue our dreams because they will not appear out of thin air. So what’s stopping us?

In The Slight Edge, Jeff Olson explains that having dreams can be painful because there is a gap between where we are in life and where we want to be, which creates a tension that can make dreaming very uncomfortable. He says that talking about our dreams is also uncomfortable for most of the people around us and will often cause even close friends and family to rain on our parade as a form of self-defense because “they’d rather not hear about the vision you have, because it reminds them of the one they’ve lost.” I believe this is why most of us say that “someday” we will do something without intending to actively pursue our dreams, because it is the path of least resistance. We talk ourselves into believing that the idea of our dreams will bring us happiness so that we don’t have to put in the effort to cultivate those dreams and bring them to fruition. We wait for our ship to come in but Olson says, “Your ship’s not coming – it’s already here. Docked and waiting.” If only we would use the skills and resources that we already have to pursue our dreams!

Months after a long and perilous journey through Africa, Eric Mirandette writes about the cost of waiting too long to pursue our dreams in The Only Road North.

There are things in this life that are far worse than death. A grave awaits each of us, and in the grand scheme of things, is being alive for eighty years really any longer than eighteen years? Our life is just a breath, whether we die old and gray or young and vibrant. When death comes for us, it will not matter how many years we managed to preserve our existence but rather what we did with the short time we were given on this earth.

The most horrible and terrifying thing that I can imagine isn’t that I would put all that I am on the line for a cause I believe in and then be called on it. The most horrible and terrifying thing is the thought that I could spend my whole existence minimizing the risks I take, living ignorantly convinced of my safety, rejecting the purpose I was created for, and then someday wake up an old man and see that my life has passed before me, and now with death knocking on my door realize that in all my years I have never truly lived.

We each have a destiny, a legend that only we can live. To embrace it is scary and dangerous, and most choose not to. Most put it off until tomorrow, until after high school, until after college, until after establishing a financial base. Can’t they see? We only get one shot at this life. Tomorrow may never come. The time is now! Not to drop everything and move to Africa, but to find the passion that is inside us and embrace it, to listen to its whisper…

If I died today, what would my life be for? If today I stood before my maker, what would I have to say about all that I had been given? Alex has stood before God and when asked what he did with what he had been given, my brother could say, “I did all that I could with every single day you gave me.”

Will I be able to say the same?

It may be uncomfortable following the desires of our hearts, at least in the beginning stages, but the cost of doing nothing is even more uncomfortable. We each have a choice. But we have to remember that someday never comes, because it will always be an indistinct point in the future with no definition or substance. What will you choose?


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