The Last Day Test
Are you doing what you’d want to be doing if this were your last day on earth?
Think hard. Your answer might push you off the edge of the known world.
In a handful of weeks I’ll board a plane and leave Ibiza (the island I’ve called home for seven years) to join my boyfriend in Tennessee. My ex will look after my adored cat. Someone else will drive my car. Everything that doesn’t fit in a suitcase will be dispersed or disposed of. Memphis will be the furthest I’ve ever lived from an ocean.
Six months ago moving to the States was as likely as moving to Mars. I left America at 21 with no intention of returning on a permanent basis, ever.
I was happy. Am happy. I love Ibiza. Loved my seven years in London. Love country-hopping in Europe with a wave of my British passport. Love my friends and our memories. My heels twinge at the thought of leaving.
What if this was your last day on earth?
I never used to think like that. Sure, we’re all going to die, but at some point in the vaporous, so-far-off-it’s-not-worth-thinking-about future. There was plenty of time to be aimless, scared, insecure, defensive, self-pitying; to not ask for forgiveness; to not write that book; to not say “I love you”. Nothing was life or death.
Until it was. One August night, halfway through our road trip of a lifetime, I watched my best friend’s face crumble like one of those slo-mo shots of a controlled demolition. Her younger brother was dead at 27. After dropping her at the nearest airport I drove a thousand miles to my sister’s house, thinking of all the ways there are to die.
Two months later a text message told me my father was dead.
I discovered that absence has a presence. Things I didn’t do loomed; unspoken words roared in the long nights’ silence.
Is this how you want to spend your last day?
Read the question again. It doesn’t ask what you don’t want. If there is such a thing as a stupid question, that would be it. You could live to 112 and not have time to list all the things you prefer to avoid, the people you’d rather not see, the places you don’t want to visit. It’s so obvious in black and white. You have to know what you want.
But I was living in negative.
I don’t want to risk rejection, so I won’t say “I love you”.
I don’t want to fail, so I’ll keep my novel safe in my head.
I don’t want to have a hard conversation, so I’ll let a friendship wither.
I don’t want to leave the house, so I’ll turn down his invitation.
That final don’t want almost cost me the love of my life. “My feet are up,” I told the cute guy messaging me on Tinder, meaning I don’t want to leave the house. But he was persistent and charming. Luckily his want trumped my don’t want.
When my boyfriend teases me about the feet up comment it feels like joking about the head-on collision you miss by a whisker.
Not long ago the thought popped into my head: I want to move to Memphis. Not in six months time, when my lease is up, but now.
WTF? My sensible self demanded. I don’t want to leave Ibiza. I don’t want to leave my cat, don’t want to sell my car, don’t want to winnow my worldly goods to a couple of suitcases. For chrissake. My boyfriend travels 300 days of the year. I don’t want to live in a strange city on my own.
Does staying in Ibiza pass the last day test?
The days between now and departure are strewn with tasks I don’t want to do, goodbyes I don’t want to say, and farewell visits to places I don’t want to leave. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed. Yet, for all the resistance, the fact remains: if this is the last day of my life, I want to spend it preparing to be with the person I love. If this is the last day of my life, I want to make positive decisions. If this is the last day of my life, I want to be brave.
None of us know what the future holds, but it’s not infinite. Love or death can strike at any moment. Don’t let them catch you with your feet up.