Work with the elderly and you are bound to get a lot of life advice, asked for or not. Some relationship related, others about life in general. I chose this patient population because I enjoy talking with those who most people don’t make time for. The life stories from a different era are fascinating.
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of stories, some sad, most funny and I have received a lot of advice. There is one piece of advice that keeps coming up from both those who fell ill at a young age and those who remain vital even into their 9th decade on this planet.
Do the things you want to in life while you are young and healthy enough to do them. Don’t wait or some day you’ll wake up and realize you can’t do it anymore.
I’d heard this advice a few times before it really sunk in. One of my favorite patients is a small, elderly Scotsman. Every visit he would tell me how he was working towards the one thing he wanted the most: to fly home to Scotland one last time. He was afraid too though due to an incident in the airport on a prior trip elsewhere. Everybody told him he was ready and able to travel. His family plotted a way to make the trip easier on him. He hemmed and hawed and put it off.
And then, just as he was ready to book his flight, he suffered a massive stroke and lost the use of the left side of his body.
His dream of flying to Scotland one last time was over. He waited too long.
I still see him every three months and I still look forward to talking with him, but his visits now have an aura of sadness about them. A finality.
Things happen and dreams falter and fizz out.
Don’t wait. Time won’t slow down. The world won’t pause for you. Someday you’ll wake up and realize you can’t do the one thing you really wanted to do.
For the last five years I have done one thing: work. Fifty hours a week, 52 weeks a year. I’ve taken one stay at home vacation. I’m on call 24 hours a day, 363 days a year taking only Wyatt’s birthday and Christmas Day off and even that makes me feel guilty. I work because the work needs done. I work because I’ve always worked. I got my first job at 16, worked through undergrad and even had a part time job in medical school.
But I’m learning the work can wait. The world will go on. Patients will still be there.
My one goal for 2019 is to live. Simply live. Do the things. Make the memories. Have the experiences.
To let myself live without guilt, judgement, fear.
To go to a show even if not fully prepared and enjoy the simple fact that I can go. What’s the worst that can happen? We knock every rail down or refuse three times and get eliminated? Big deal. Do the thing.
To stare at the sky, a mountain, the ocean, a forest more and the computer screen less.
To stop being mean to myself. I try so hard to always be a cheerleader for everyone. To boost others up. To push them towards their goals. Yet I then turn around and tell myself I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not skilled enough.
To embrace the life I have knowing full well what the end can look like and how quickly it comes up. How one moment can deprive you of everything.
So in 2019 I’m going to live more, work less. Go for it even if it may be ugly. Jump the jumps. Ride the trails. Take time off to be silly with Wyatt, to explore the world, to plant a garden.
Simply to live before I run out of time to do so.