4 Things a Wise Man Taught Me About Making the Most of This Short Life

“The goal is to die with memories, not dreams.” ~Unknown

As we stood holding hands under that great oak tree, I had never felt more surrounded by love. It was simultaneously the most wonderful and haziest moment of my whole life as we said, “I do.”

It had really happened. I had married my best friend.

We made the decision to bring our wedding forward a year after my husband’s dad, Ian, had been diagnosed with cancer. In nine months we had planned and executed our perfect wedding day. And he was there.

We drank and sang and danced the night away. And three days later my now father-in-law dropped us at the airport to leave for our honeymoon. We were so looking forward to a week away to reflect on the wedding and come down from the madness of the past nine months.

But after just twenty-four hours we were on a plane heading back to England. Ian had passed away suddenly.

After a restless week of tears, hugs, and family time it hadn’t even begun to sink in. We’re now months down the line and it still hasn’t really begun to sink in.

I had lived with my mother and father-in-law for a few years prior to this. This was a man who quite literally made me laugh every day. But perhaps most importantly, this was a man who always told us to follow our dreams, travel the world, and do what makes us happy. It’s hard to accept he’s gone.

I had always admired his outlook on life. And though he is no longer here in person, he has left us with some rules to live by that I will carry with me forever.

1. Always make time for people.

Life can be busy. Sometimes a little too busy. But one thing that Ian always did so naturally was make time for other people. Whether he knew them well or not, he always had time for a chat. He got to know people; he shared stories with them. But more than that, he listened to their stories and he loved to hear about people from all walks of life.

Everywhere he went people were happy to see him. Even if it was just a week’s holiday to Spain you knew he’d be leaving with a bunch of hilarious stories from the locals and people he met. He had an aura about him that just seemed to attract people and make them want to stop and talk to him.

So what have I learnt from this? Okay, so life is busy. But it will pass you by if you let it. Sometimes it’s worth taking that extra five minutes to stop and talk to someone. Take time to get to know them. Making time for other people is such a satisfying feeling.

You never know whom you’re going to meet. You never know how people are going to affect or influence your life. But not only that, you have no idea how you could influence or change someone else’s life, even with just one conversation.

One thing that gets me down, and something I try not to do too much these days, is reading the news. Reading about how people treat one another, especially given everything that’s going on at the moment. Just making time for people you don’t usually speak to, or getting to know someone new can do wonders for restoring your faith in humanity. There are some incredible people out there!

My husband, like his dad, is very good at getting to know people. As we drunkenly made conversation with a taxi driver one night, we discovered he was a Buddhist and he was from India. That’s not the remarkable part.

As he pulled up outside the house we were taking to him about traveling and how we’d love to visit India one day. He took his wallet in his hand and he said, “What is this? Money? It’s a bit of paper. Life it too short to always be chasing money. You need to see the world and make the most of it.”

The conversation we had with this taxi driver was short, but it stuck with me for days. It made us so happy. We even took his card so we could call on him next time we needed a lift—and maybe a motivational chat about life!

We’ve always known we we’re going to travel again one day, and while we understood his point about money just being a bit of paper, you do need some to get you started, even if it’s just booking a one-way ticket!

But this conversation had got us excited and we started dreaming of ways we could travel on a budget. Turns out, if you think outside the box travel can be much cheaper than you think.

2. Travel soothes the soul.

Ian loved to travel. He visited some incredible places in his lifetime, and was always on the lookout for his next adventure. Like I said, he loved getting to know new people and experiencing different ways of life. He was always the first to put him and his wife forward for an adventure, and they have some truly incredible stories as a result.

He always encouraged us to travel, and we can’t wait for the day we pack our bags and head off on our biggest adventure yet. And wherever we go, a piece of him will always be with us.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you should travel whenever and wherever you can—and you don’t need to be rich to do it! You could consider volunteering overseas, housesitting, or just plain saving up by cutting back on non-essentials in your daily life.

Whatever it is you choose to do, always grab the opportunity to experience new cultures and let them shape who you are. When I am grey and old, I want to look back and know that I have some truly great memories and experiences to share.

3. Always be yourself.

This was something Ian was very good at. No matter what, he was always unapologetically Ian. He didn’t waste time worrying about keeping up appearances or doing the conventional thing. He was the life and soul of many parties, and this was in no small part because he was just happy being himself.

This is something that really resonates with me. I know I worry too much. Sometimes I worry too much about what people think of me. Not always. But I know I let other people’s opinions affect my actions and mood from time to time.

Most of us need to work at being ourselves more often. There are many people out there, just like me, who know that they can sometimes be held back by the opinion of others. But we are all one of a kind, and I truly believe that people love you more for just being you. And okay, you’re never going to get on with everyone, but you’ll make more genuine connections (and you’ll definitely have more fun) by being your authentic self.

4. Life really is too short not to make the most of it—so seize the moment.

And despite everything he did with his time on earth, he left too soon. He was fifty-three and still had an incredible love for life. On our wedding day, despite being ill, Ian was one of the last men standing on the dance floor, shirt off, swinging it around his head. Had you not known he was ill, you would never have thought it.

Perhaps this is an overused phrase, but it is something I now believe to be totally true: You really should live every day as if it were your last. Because these past two years have taught me that you never know when it’s going to be your time to go.

As someone who suffers from anxiety, I can often find myself becoming frustrated or worried about things I shouldn’t be. I am trying to teach myself to let go. And if there is one thing I wish you to take from this, it’s that life is way too short to worry about what other people think of you.

Always be thankful for the small things, because one day they may be the big things. Enjoy every moment with your loved ones, and don’t hold grudges, because what’s the point? Cherish every hug, accept every compliment, and seize every opportunity you can to make someone else smile.

About Natashia Larkin

Natashia is a freelance writer and digital nomad, having swapped her 9-5 for a life of travel. She and her husband are exploring the world one country at a time, in their self-built campervan, Stella. Join them on their pursuit for happiness and simplicity by following their blog here larkinaround.co.uk.

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