Forget platitudes; remembering to live out values, no matter what they are, is a difficult daily practice. You must contemplate and interrogate the assumptions of daily life in all its mundane and stupendously colorless moments, as honestly and as unpretentiously as you can.
Suppose you are not good at this - thoughtful, unpretentious writing for public view, without the voice of self-criticism invalidating every idea.
Suppose you are so afraid of your own heart that you can’t quite get the words out with your own name attached.
Too bad. Use the second person. Pretend to instruct an audience when your audience is your own self. Write it anyway.
From conservative survivalists to Mexican tourism bureaus to climate activists, everyone’s talking about some kind of apocalypse these days. But the world didn’t end yesterday and it will not end tomorrow. If you want to keep going - showing up in skirt that cinches too much, writing thank-you emails past midnight, smiling at strangers - you have to believe that. You have to believe the work matters.
And you have to believe not much more. Because whether the glass is half-empty or half-full, it will always remain shaped as a glass.
Be grateful for second place. And for last place. Who can predict the shape your contribution will take in the world? You are not, you are never the most - wealthy, beautiful, smart, witty, old, young, kind, charming, thoughtful, courageous, creative, well-loved.
Remember how David Foster Wallace talks about everyone being defeated by who he worships - don’t, for the love of —, don’t worship yourself. Look, no one is paying attention to you when you wave your hands in the air. Remember laughing at MySpace cellphone self-portraits, the trouty lips and arms trunking out of the frame? Remember that you look your worst when you’re just trying to be seen.
That’s okay, maybe you just want to see the world. You want adventures, and you should. It’s good, this willingness to accept all experiences for the best within them. It’s good to wonder: what shall you eat for breakfast in every country? This feeling of claustrophobic Mondays you associate with rain and September, what does it feel like in Kenya, if at all?
Your soul-mate could be a health minister in Burkina Faso. Perhaps you will find him there! Or perhaps you will find her in a coffee shop in Hamburg, an art gallery in Cape Town, a strip club in Des Moines.
But we can’t all be Kerouac living On the Road. Hearing or seeing dreams lived is not living them. Do not go eyes-first, going everywhere and being nowhere. Even foreign correspondents have a beat; even photographers send their captured visions home. Don’t kid yourself, okay? Your soul mate in Burkina Faso is just another guy. He’s the next person you look at and say, Okay, then, and you create the serendipity of fate and the story of how there was a red silken thread connecting you all these years.
Your calling is just the job you have when you’ve become ready for that choice. This is the worst reason to give up:”It hasn’t worked yet.” And this is the best: “It’s time to let go.”
Let yourself remain a work in progress. Continue questioning without hoping for answers. Leave every manifesto open to revision - even this one. Just as writing “the End” to a story only creates the embarrassment of an Afterword, each final Goodbye merely invites a reunion and the exclamation, How long it’s been! My, how you’ve aged!
Remember Kierkegaard: there is no being without becoming and there is no becoming that is not toward death. Each day, become a little more of the obituary you envision; each day, be worthy of tears from the people you love and will leave behind.
Know this: you’ll fail, and you’ll fall short, and every day you get a little bit older, duller, worn down by time and disappointment and free radicals. Acai berries can’t save you from life.
Your soulmate could leave you. Your funeral could have no mourners at all. None of this changes who you must be.
And that person is: always conscious. Always wondering, Why was I chosen for the grand and gorgeous life? Any time you remember it, a smile opening your mouth in greeting, and your hands lifted towards other eyes and towards the heavens, accepting the world as it comes toward you and down.