“Learn to appreciate what you have before time makes you appreciate what you had.” ~Unknown
I was standing there crying harder than I had ever cried before in my life. I was so emotionally moved that I totally lost control and was even drooling. It’s a good thing I was wearing a surgical mask.
I was witnessing my wife giving birth to our first-born child.
A nurse had to remind me to take pictures when she saw me standing there with a camera in my hand, crying more than a…well, a baby. It was the happiest moment of my life. I felt joy with a touch of relief and a sense of responsibility toward my wife and son.
It was the most intense rush of emotions I had ever experienced, until…
Fast-forward a year minus five days later. I experienced the saddest and most difficult feelings of my life. It was the same intensity of emotions I felt when my son was born, but it was pure sadness, grief, and emptiness I felt.
I was standing in a small room in a different hospital in a different section. A large man opened a freezer door and rolled out a body wrapped in white sheets. He opened the sheets while I stood there in disbelief. A few seconds later, I began crying uncontrollably.
I was looking at my dead father (even writing this sentence hurts).
His nose was a little wrinkled to the side from the pressure of the sheets. I turned around and walked toward the wall weeping uncontrollably. I wanted it to be a bad dream, but it wasn’t.
My cousin embraced me as I cried more. I turned back around and asked the large man to wait, because I wanted to see my father again. I stood there looking at him, hoping silently he would say it was all a huge mistake. I would have forgiven the hospital if that had been the case. But it wasn’t.
Later when we were burying him, he still didn’t wake. I knew it was silly, but I had hope.
A Changed Perspective On Life
These two experiences had a huge impact on me. For one, they triggered the most intense emotions I’ve ever felt. They also gave me a new perspective on life.
Having a son changed my priorities. I resolved to do anything and everything to ensure he has the happiest life possible.
I choose to shower him with unconditional love, protect him from harm until he can fend for himself, teach and guide him so he can navigate his way through life, and open doors for him so he has choices and possibilities.
Most importantly, I savor every moment I have with him. I decided to balance life and work better. Although work is important, it will not come at the expense of people I love. Working 15-hour days no longer makes sense.
Life is Transient; Make it Worthwhile
Losing my father made me realize how transient life is. He was a figure of strength for me when I was a child. I assumed he would always be there. Time passed and now he’s gone.
His death reminded me to live a meaningful life. It reinforced my resolve to savor it. When my time comes, it won’t be the material possessions that I will miss. It will be the people I love and the experiences I had with them.
I choose to go after my dreams rather than just think about them and waiting for the right moment. Whenever I catch myself hesitating, I choose to either get started or drop it and pursue something else. Hesitation is not an option.
I realized that I don’t necessarily have to risk it all and drop everything to pursue my dreams. That might work for some, but I don’t want to subject my family to the hardship of the dip until things work out.
The journey can be longer. The important thing is to keep moving toward it and savoring the trip along the way.
Lean Into Life
I realized we have three choices in how we approach life and life’s events: we can either go with the flow (i.e. lean back), walk away (quit), or make the most of it (lean in).
I decided to lean into life and things I choose to pursue. Instead of just going with the flow, I choose to set course toward something worthwhile to me and fight for it when I face resistance. Something I’m good at (I will get good at it if I wasn’t already). Something that fits my values. Something I love so much that I lose track of time while doing it.
I choose to do things I’m proud of. I choose to read and learn new things that will light my way and fuel my mind.
Choose To Be Happy
I choose to help others even if they don’t ask for it. I choose to take care of myself. I choose to be around people who add to my life and ignore those who don’t. I choose to experiment with new things and constantly evolve my self, my life, and my work. I make time for my hobbies.
I choose to breathe and relax when I’m stressed about something. In good and bad times, I remind myself that “this too shall pass” and focus on what I can control.
Focus On What’s There, Not What’s Missing
I enjoy the moments I have with my son. I watch him every night while he sleeps. I kiss his chubby feet and play with his toes as he giggles. I relish the rare moments when he settles down and sits on my lap. I savor the moments when he wraps his hand around my finger.
I also cherish the good memories I have of my dad. I feel warmth and joy each time I do.
I encourage you to do the same and lean into life. Prioritize what’s important in your life. Pursue and protect your dreams. Nurture your relationships with people who matter to you. Don’t waste energy on what isn’t important. You can start today.
Photo by Max F. Williams