This isn’t it. But it’s coming. So is my last meal, my last pair of shoes, my last kiss.
I try to look at life like an adventure, and many days I’m even actually able to believe it. But after a professional gig in a distant location, seat-belted into an airplane just starting its final approach, I cannot help but wonder how many more times I might get the chance—the privilege—to plan for another trip. Someday, many years from now, I hope, the answer will inevitably be “never”, and I fear what those implications mean.
I mentioned to a friend the other day that I can pretty well estimate the remaining number of cars I’ll probably have to buy in the remainder of my life. A process that brings me little joy, I cannot help but be fascinated by the prospects of what those vehicles are likely to be like more than the experience of their material acquisition or possession. I’m more interested in the creative expression of the car designers than I am in the transaction or process of ownership. More importantly, if also more precisely, this means I can count my remaining days on Earth in terms of cars rather than years.
Perhaps it’s useful to consider that cars aren’t the only metric. Could I count those years in terms of remaining bagels and cream cheese (thousands)? Movie tickets (hundreds)? Thanksgivings (dozens)? Cell phones (handfuls)? Grandchildren (a few)? Every day, I’m aware that the number of times I might do what I’m setting out to do is like evaluating a helium balloon on the end of a string. It will float on the air, tied to a wrist, and by nighttime bob listlessly on the floor. Nothing lasts forever.
I dream about finishing a book I’ve been writing, and I wonder if the world will look at all different to me the moment I declare it finished. Then I imagine how I’ll feel a little different in that world, having bent a sliver of reality to conform to my creation, presented in some yet-to-be-determined format. Then I imagine the conversations I hope to have with people after they read it. Then I imagine how I think I’m going to feel when I reassess all of the many aspects of that book I wish I had done differently before I declared it finished in the first place.
Suddenly, there it is! This exercise of projecting into my future self is really an exercise in living right now, in the present. I think about the failures of that book I haven’t finished yet, and I’m determined to change my regrets of the past by changing the reality of my present. I’m not going to let that book be a failure. When the future arrives, my past will have been better considered because I saw it clearly as it was being constructed in the first place (Make sense?)
Last kiss, huh? Last meal, last song, last boat ride on a European river. I’m determined to make sure that each one is a moment of invention, a declaration of how I want to experience them in the present, with an awareness that someday in the future, as I look back at all of the adventures that have come before, the last thing I want to do is count the measure of my adventures with the regrets of mediocrity, or worse, irrelevance.