If there is one recognizable aphorism on how we should live our days to the fullest, it would be carpe diem. This is famously known to mean “seize the day”, but it is actually mistranslated. Its true meaning is closer to “gather while the day is ripe”.
This year has been hard for many of us. The pandemic brought widespread disruption in people’s lives by losing loved ones, layoffs, closed businesses, and isolation. Our family was not spared as well. This year I lost my sister to cancer. Several uncles and relatives passed away. This led me to think about the shortness of this life. Was gathering while the day is ripe enough? How can I even know if the day is ripe or not?
Dying each day
Time waits for no one. The older I get, the more obvious this is. It feels like it was just a few years ago that my parents were strong and energetic. Now I can clearly see their silver hair, their weakening physique, and their loss of energy. Every time I see them, they look older.
The light is slowly but constantly fading away. The moment we are born, the timer starts running. No one can stop it or slow it down. We are all destined to die at some point in the future. And for most, it is only when you have learned enough to really live that you are old enough to die.
I realized that we should not just gather and seize the day while the day is ripe. Regardless of the situation, whether it is a good day or a bad one, we need to strive to live the day to the fullest. And I found a poem that captures this thought more than carpe diem will:
Do not go gentle into that good night.Dylan Thomas
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Don’t just gather, don’t just strive. Rage! Bring it your all, whether the day is ripe or not.
Rage, not gather
The future is not guaranteed. We do not know how long we will be able to do the things we are doing right now. We might not even wake up the next day, and the world will still move on. The only way to use this limited, precious time we have is to start doing the things we ought to do while we still can.
Stop waiting for the right time.
“I will have more time to work on this tomorrow”. “Someone else will hopefully take care of this, so it will no longer be my problem.“. How often do we tell ourselves these lies? The time to do the things you need to do is right now, when you are actually thinking about it. You already have the time. You are already holding the tools you need to perform that task. The only thing left is for you to just do it.
If you are scared, do it anyway.
One way to make sure you don’t live your life to the fullest is by staying in your comfort zone. Growth happens only if you do the things you have not done before. A bird is born only by destroying the place that nourished it and considered its home. A plant can only taste sunlight once it struggles out of its seed and pushes through the dark earth.
Are you scared of failure, disruption of your routine, or being uncomfortable? You already know that your day-to-day plans constantly get disrupted anyway. Nothing seems to fall perfectly into place. And that is part of the beauty of life. Why fight against it? Why let the cart drag us by our necks rather than enjoying the walk?
When you feel afraid to fall or to fail, remember that this could be your last chance to do it. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Your loved ones who passed away no longer has the opportunity that you have right now.
The thing about opportunity is that no one tells you it’s in front of you.
Have you ever waited for a “sign” before you acted on something? Why do we sometimes require an external force or signal to determine our next course of action? Do we believe that by doing so, we increase our chances of success?
Success ultimately depends on action. No matter how “lucky” or “blessed” you are, nothing will be accomplished without action. Opportunity comes only for those who are ready and willing to grab it.
In the end, you compete only with yourself.
So many things in life are outside our control, and that includes our lifespan. We can live up to age 90, or die before we reach 40. Since we only have one life, and we don’t know the length, why do we waste our time envying and comparing ourselves with other people? Others have their own path, their own lifespan, their own problems.
It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.Seneca
Life is long if you know how to use it. The measure of a good life is not on how many years you have existed, but on how well you existed. Did you maximize the skills you learned along the way and the natural talents that were gifted to you at birth? Did you give back to life and not just take from it? Or are you always looking at others, trying desperately to live your life through their own paths?
As we came into this world in our own way, we also leave life in the same manner. It is foolish to look at others as yardsticks on how to live your life. Your enemy, the one who you are competing with, is the one looking at you in the mirror.
Give yourself permission
Perhaps there is something holding you back as to why you are not actively living your own life. Was it your upbringing, your culture, or your past failures? Maybe you need to give yourself the chance to take action.
What is stopping you? How will you know your strengths if you do not go through difficulty? If you are chained in the present by your own doing?
For what it’s worth, I am giving you the permission to live your own life. Do not wait until a loved one’s death jolts you into action. You already know that this is your only life. No one else can help you take control of that. Do that thing that you always wanted to do! There are people you knew who are watching you. Do you think are happy seeing you like this, wasting this gift of time that they no longer have?
Move while you still can. Rage against that dying light!
Photo by Snowscat on Unsplash