What the Hell To Do With Your Life

I ain’t scared of much.

You know what terrifies me? Wasting my life.

I have already wasted way too much. I have also accomplished a lot of what I’ve wanted to do. But can you imagine (as I try to) what can be accomplished if we do NOT waste our time?

I have been looking at how I spend time a lot differently lately. I do spend a ton of time online, but now I try to make it count.

If I feel tired or lazy, I try to at least learn something. If I want to play a game, I make it educational instead of pointless. No more 80’s Nintendo (back to once a year for me!) – because of this I am now a geography pro. Do you know where Kiribati is? How about Togo? I do.

Why am I bringing this up? Mostly because I am unemployed and flailing. I know what I want to do, BASICALLY, but when you are a “scanner” (as Barbara Sher coined it) you can have so many interests that you absolutely cannot decide what your focus should be.

I have so many interests it can be staggering, and often I don’t know what to focus on so…I do nothing. This is a problem. Only recently have I figured out how to fix this issue in terms of time-wasting, but in terms of how to pinpoint a goal is very difficult.

I’ve had a long history of different jobs, some short-lived, some long, and my frazzled journey has left me with some deep scars. I’ve been to school twice, and ended up not wanting to do those things as jobs. I’ve been fired countless times (though only once in the last 13 years). I’ve never had a problem finding a job or getting one – keeping them has been harder, because, for the most part, my unhappiness is obvious. I have a very expressive face and am unable to be a phony. Even when I have attempted to fake it, people know.

When I apply for jobs, often I will change my mind right before an interview, frozen with dread at the idea of spending all my time doing something I don’t really want to do. Very rarely do things come up that I want to do.

BUT WHAT DO I WANT TO DO? All day every day? Nothing specific! I want variety! I want excitement! I want to learn and be useful in a way that isn’t petty.

I have ALWAYS envied people with a laser-focus. The musicians I know, for instance…that is all they do. They obsess. The people who obsess are the ones I see succeed. They know what they want and fuck all the rest.

As a teenager, I wanted the same thing, though my confidence was exceptionally low. I tried starting bands with no luck. I was in one for 2 weeks, I think…I joined a group of girls in their band Bitter Honey – we’d practice one or two songs and then they’d want to watch TV. I felt hopeless, being in a small town with people who didn’t take what I loved seriously. I tried placing ads up in indie newspapers and up on bulletin boards in the alternative record stores. I was just young, and again, no one took me seriously. This included my parents.

My interests were still supported, but never as a career choice. I was told to be realistic. Teenage me was like “Yeah right” and didn’t listen, but deep down, I did. After so many failures, and lack of being pushed in the direction I hoped for, I had to scramble for something else.

I ALWAYS DOUBTED MY ABILITY TO MAKE IT AS ANY SORT OF ARTIST. A musician, writer, photographer. Those were my main focuses. Be realistic.

Where has being realistic gotten me? 20 years later, I am still scrambling, wondering what random job to take just so I can get by and spend only my free time doing what I love, if I can figure it out. Other people make livings doing this, why not me? What separates the people who make it from ME? Drive, luck, practice. Mostly drive and passion, and nerve. Putting yourself out there.

I am slowly figuring it out, but I still question my ability to do it on my own (“Should I go back to school? Should I teach myself? Should it be university, or is just college okay?” etc etc). I don’t think I am too old. Debt is something that absolutely petrifies me, as I don’t want to be a slave to money.

About a week ago, I laid in bed after waking up, depressed and lost (but still better than the previous day, where I’d been in utter despair) and started questioning myself:

If I had a year to live, what would I do?

I thought about asking myself what I’d do if I had a day to live, or a week – but you can’t accomplish anything in that time, really, though I guess the answers would also be illuminating.

This is hardly an original question, but how many of you have actually REALLY thought about it? And taken it to heart?

Here are my answers:

~ I would travel, as much as possible. Even if I couldn’t afford to go to anywhere super exotic, I would sell all my things, trade in my car for a van, and road trip all over North America, visiting all the people I know and admire. Then I’d sell my van, go back to Thailand (I’d make my boyfriend come along too – hell, if I’m gonna die, he is gonna figure shit out to make it happen!) and also go to the Maldives, where I’ve wanted to go for years.

~ I’d surf, even if I am shitty at it. I’d do it as much as possible.

~ I’d have lots of sex, crazy sex, adventurous sex, loving, gushing, Richter-scale sex.

~ And I’d WRITE. A lot. All of it. It would be like blood coming out of my fingers instead of ink, because my fingers would be almost broken from having so much to say, to share.

What did this lead me to realize? That my ideal job would be to be a travel writer.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about 8 years old. And I have been. Not professionally, but I have always written, and often. Stories, yes, but mostly memoir. Zines. Comics. Snail mail. Blogs (I’ve been blogging for 14 years….) Countless beginnings of novels. My old pseudonym was a character from a novel I was writing at age 16. Anything to play with words.

So what do I have to do to make this happen? I guess, like anything, practice. Write out a map.

Above all else, I must remember and take to heart that time is limited. Even if you believe in reincarnation, an afterlife, whatever – you are only THIS you once. You only have this life experience once. And there is no absolute proof, so don’t take chances. Do it now.

Don’t wait until something scary or bad happens to you in order to make a change (though sometimes this is the only thing that really works…having a breakdown is what led me to my lifestyle changes I’ve assimilated into my life for 6 years). Figure it out now. It doesn’t matter if you’re 36 or 96. Do it.

So, what would you do if you had a year to live? How would you LIVE? GO LIVE NOW. Don’t just exist. LIVE.