Earlier this week, I changed my Facebook cover photo to a picture of Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch in the 1962 film version of “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Why him? Because Atticus Finch is awesome. That’s all you need to know for now, but more on him later.
I think a lot of people think I had a pretty heartbreaking 2013, and yeah, there were a lot of really shitty moments. But through all of the bad, there is one particularly sad night that I remember, and that’s the night I finally watched the series finale of NBC’s The Office. There was so much emotion that hour of television brought out of me; I was just so sad to see it go. Maybe it represented something, but after you become so attached to people like that, and then know they’re leaving forever…I don’t know. It’s pretty beautifully sad. I bring this up because there were some things said by some of the characters from that show in that final episode that really show what life is:
Andy Bernard said, “I wish there was a way to know that you were in the good old times before you’ve actually left them. Someone should write a song about that.” And then Jim Halpert said, “Imagine going back and watching a tape of your life. You could see yourself change and make mistakes and grow up. You could watch yourself fall in love, watch yourself become a husband, become a father. You guys gave that to me, and that’s an amazing gift.” And these two things really struck me that night; even tonight as I rewatched the episode to find these quotes, it made me smile and sad at the same time.
These days, the days that you’re living right now — they are literally the only days that you have. You don’t know anything beyond this; you have no assurance that tomorrow is going to happen. I’ve talked about this before, the fact that today is the only day you’ve got, but I want to reiterate: live today up. Really live!
But that’s hard in today’s world of freeways and drive-thru coffee kiosks. How can we live like today is today and today is the only day we’ve got when we are so focused on the fact that we’ve got to sign our life and money away to the government by April 15th? Honestly, it’s really hard, and some of us do need to live for the tomorrow, the next week, the lifetime of our children that we don’t know for sure will even exist. So what I’m not saying is that you should give up on the future. What I am saying is that you should live today so that it is worth remembering in that future.
Do something every single day so that when you get to the next day, you can look back and remember the day before. I promise you that if you do that, when you get to the future, you’re going to look back to the past and it will be the “good old days” that Andy talks about.
Want a practical thing you can do? I’d recommend taking one of the small journeys you make in your life with a car, and walk it instead of driving. If you live relatively close to your work, leave an hour earlier and walk, or if you typically drive to school, leave earlier and walk. When we drive places, we often miss a lot of things along the road because we’re so focused on being safe while driving…or at least not speeding enough to get a ticket. The other day, I walked to work and discovered a donut shop that I didn’t even know existed. And I’ve been working there for two years, driving past the donut shop almost every single day. And they had the best jelly donut I’ve had in my entire life.
I would never have discovered that jelly donut if I had kept driving. And that jelly donut made that day worth remembering. So maybe today, or tomorrow, or the next day, skip driving. Skip spending gas, skip the five minutes that it would take you to get to work, and walk there. It’ll be longer, it’ll be more work, but it will be so worth it in the end because you will experience so much more of what exists along that drive. And then every time you take that drive in your car again, you’ll notice that donut shop or that bookstore or that tree or that garbage pile and remember the day you discovered it by walking. I guarantee it will make your life that much more full and adventurous. You just have to do like I said in my last post, and cultivate a taste for the mild discomfort that is walking.
What does this all have to do with Atticus Finch? I just really like this picture of him walking: