I had a therapy session with a friend today. Realistically, he had called to talk about some exterior signage we’re working on together but — our conversations being what they are — we started discussing meditation, anxiety, and death-of-self before we even got to typographic choices.
I am in the “middle” of my life and I understand now why people buy unaffordable cars during this time. When you hit the middle age of your life, you are never where you think you are supposed to be because either you don’t have enough money, or you don’t have enough freedom, or enough happiness, basically life isn’t easy enough yet. But because you’re halfway through, it should be all figured out. Right?! And how heartbreaking is it that it’s not, and that people are still sad, or poor, or in need. I think this is because we are chasing the wrong goals.
We are told that if you do what you love, and the people come, and you make the money, you are going to reach middle age and everything will fit. Well, it is never going to fit, and it is an insurmountable challenge to discover happiness on that path. The problem with pursing life’s joy through your work is that it is tied to the outcome of the work. And who, on their deathbed, shares the gratitude for the hard work they did in their life? Nobody. Most people on their deathbed share their regrets for the people they missed, the loves they never called back, or the new friends they never met. Never the work they did — even if they did love doing it.
But, of course, if we’re going to try and live our life based solely on our friends and relations we will reach a point where they all have to go to work and we’re stuck wandering the Cub Foods at two o’clock in the afternoon waiting for them to get off work so you can hang out again. So we can’t logistically just pursue friends. We have to work, we have to make the money so we can buy food and share dinner with the people we love. So how do we hang out with the people we love, and do the work we need to do in order to die happy people? I suggest we work towards our death.
But we can live our life like we are going to die someday, because we are all going to die. We know how much regret people have when they reach death, and we don’t want to be those people. So we jump out of airplanes and get drunk on a Tuesday. But I’m suggesting a different goal.
Don’t work towards that professional goal. That goal that says, “once this project is done I’m taking a vacation.” Because that’s a shitty way to exist. And you can’t work just for today as the goal, because you know you’re going to wake up tomorrow penniless in a stranger’s bed. But what about working towards death?
Death as the goal. It’s the goal for all of us. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday, and for the rest of your death. So think about what you’re doing today that is helping you work to reduce your regrets at death. Is the work sitting in front of you working towards a good death? How can you slowly move the Titanic that is your professional career towards a good death? How can you gingerly adjust the fragile robin’s egg that is your relationships with friends and family towards a good death? Is trolling your Instagram feed helping prepare you for a good death? Is complaining about the service at Perkins helping prepare you for a good death?