“So, what are you going to do for a living?”
I didn’t realize at the time that my smart-ass answer to my mother’s question actually contained the secret to youthfulness. I’ll explain that in a moment. I had just graduated from high school, and the pressure of grades and attendance had been released like air from a balloon. I had the whole world before me, like a huge blank canvas that I could paint the picture of my perfect life upon.
It didn’t matter that I didn’t have any money; I could hitchhike around the world, pick up odd jobs here and there, climb mountains, or live in the wilderness. I was free and unfettered from social responsibility. Ah, such is the wild abandon of youth! This really worried my poor mother, like so many mothers who worry about their children. The world is a very dangerous place. Heaven forbid, I could get killed or something! Or, maybe as bad in the eyes of some, I could end up as a starving artist, a street musician, a bohemian poet, or a writer, or maybe I’d decide to sail around the world or not to work at all!
My mother swore that my boxing messed my head up and that was the reason for these wild ideas. Yep, I thought that boxing would be an interesting way of making a living also. Oh yes, then there was the possibility of a scholarship to a fine arts college—which wasn’t going to happen with my attitude. And even with a scholarship, I’d still require funds for living expenses. The only thing I was rich in was a fertile imagination. In my dreams I’d never grow old, because I’d need the time to do everything I ever imagined I could.
My lifetime would have to be greatly extended to accommodate my alleged “delusions.”
Over the decades, I’ve had all sorts of occupations for a time and traveled where I wanted. I often worked only long enough to make enough money to take years off without working on anything but myself. I sought seclusion, silence, and simplicity in my affairs; these three things allowed a sharpened conscious awareness that provided enrichment beyond my imagination. I had become consciously aware of the song within me and found it needed a release. Everyone has their own song to sing; all that is needed is the courage to sing it. As Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in “The Voiceless,” “Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them.” I vowed this would never happen to me. I would sing my song from the mountaintop and it mattered not who heard it.
Little did I realize that when a person makes a commitment to live fully, to live consciously, to be totally present, time stands still for that one. When you are so focused in the moment, tasting, savoring, and simply being, everything seems to unfold on your own terms. It’s as if you planned the whole event! Every twist and turn is exactly as you’d wanted it. Every unknowable, every threat or danger, every change of circumstance is the adventure of a lifetime! You’re so busy being you that you’ve got no time to worry about the past or fret about the future! In the present moment, you have become more than enough to yourself, and you know that nothing more need be added. You’re beyond all measure and deeply satisfied. This is the gift of loving life and living fully.
On that day many lifetimes ago when my mother asked me, “So, what are you going to do for a living?” I replied, “Anything I want to!” It has kept me young and will keep you young as well!
Reflections from Turtle Lake,