Jun 5, 2012

Life is so damn short

I recognized him immediately. He was the same man we'd seen on the beach just a few days before. It was clear that he wasn't a tourist, never coming with the typical heap of items brought by many to the beach.

Just a small pack over his shirtless shoulders, headphones in his ears and the bicycle he rode in on. He sat alone the first time, keeping his eyes to the ocean and remaining unaffected by those around him. This time however, he settled on the same fallen tree where Keane was positioned and casually asked if he could "share some shade."

After talking for a bit, we learned the man's name was Kurt and he was a writer. He grew up on Kauai, moved to the mainland, studied with some pretty influential figures, and traveled the world. We shared with him our professions, where we were from and what brought us to Kauai. We expressed some envy for those who are able to actually live on the island and explained that we'd like to find a way to move to that paradise someday.

With a smile, Kurt responded, "If there's one thing I know, it's that life is so damn short. Do it if you want to."

Kurt told us he recently suffered the loss of his wife and had returned to his roots to grieve her. He spoke vaguely and we didn't push the subject but I could feel his heart become heavy as he walked to the water with tears in his eyes from the mere mention of her name. A while later, he returned to apologize for cutting our conversation short. We wished him well and he was on his way.

Our interaction with Kurt was brief but he left a certain mark on our lives. The Life is Short sentiment isn't a new one to us. Keane and I talk constantly about living this one life we've been given with intention while remaining present in each moment. But for some reason, Kurt's story touched us. We are not promised tomorrow. Our spouses are not promised tomorrow. If we don't like something, we should change it, even if it's scary to do so. We don't get a second shot at this thing.

We started thinking about our own lives. Keane works long hours. In his industry, it's standard to put in 12 hour days without so much as a lunch break, and most people work Saturdays. We've said for years that something will have to give when we have a family because our kids will not grow up without their dad. It's something we both feel strongly about and are not willing to compromise on.

I cringe when I hear people from Keane's company say they are content working like dogs now so that they will have a comfortable retirement in the future. "It will be worth it," they say. But what if it's not? What if you die the day before you retire? Or what if you aren't in good health when you get there and you can't enjoy any of the things you put off for so many years? We are only ever guaranteed right now, this moment. It's all we've got. Yes, we have to be responsible and save and plan for our future, but I can tell you it's definitely not worth it to us to miss out on experiences and relationships now in the hopes of having something better in the future.

So, what does this realization mean for our lives? I don't know yet, but we'll continue to pray everyday for opportunities that allow us to live our best lives now, not in 40 years. If we need to change jobs because they get in the way of our family, we will do it. It may be scary, but waiting to be happy is even scarier.

Because " is so damn short" and no one is promised tomorrow. A wise man from Kauai taught us that.

*I came across this photo on Pinterest. Not only is the message fitting to this post, but I'd be willing to bet the picture was taken in Hawaii.

and so it is...

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