The Four Words That Woke Me Up

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~ Henry David Thoreau

Cara Bradley
Aug 10, 2018 · 3 min read
Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

While vacationing in New Hampshire a few summers ago I attended a show in a converted red barn that houses The Peterborough Players. The walkway to the barn is paved with cobblestones engraved with the names and dates of donors. About to step into the playhouse that evening, one particular stone caught my eye.

It read, “It goes by fast.”

This simple phrase, these four ordinary words, not only stopped me in my tracks and took my breath away. These four words changed my life.

In a matter of seconds my heart was racing. Thoughts shot across my mind trying to make sense of what I was now going to do with these four words. Thoughts like how my life was flying by and how If I don’t start paying attention, I’m going to miss everything. Questions emerged like how to make time slow down, connect more deeply and live more fully.

What felt like minutes held in my own analysis, was only a few seconds. When I started breathing and walking again, I looked at my then seventeen-year-old daughter noting that she was a year away from leaving for college. I glanced over at my wonderful in-laws who were sailing through their senior years noting that someday they would be gone and I would take their place as the senior citizen (hopefully.)

Yep, it goes by fast.

I couldn’t shake these four words. All night long they rolled around in my head, whispering in my ear, urging me to wake up — now. In the grand timeline of existence, our precious human experience is a mere blink of an eye. In a flash, our children grow up and we get old.

Some wise soul had carefully chosen to place those four words on a cobblestone instead of their name and date. What foresight they had. What a tremendous gift they had given. Certainly thousands have walked over that stone completely missing the message. On a different day, I might have as well.

For some reason on that summer evening as I walked into a red barn in New Hampshire I glanced down. And in so doing, I woke up.

It goes by fast. These words continue to remind me to live deliberately.

Each day I walk on this earth I intend to not wasting one second stuck in the sludge of drama or the muck of mediocrity. It’s not easy. It takes constant reminding.

It goes by fast.

Each day I wake up and seek to show up for life fully. I search out moments to lie down in the grass and look up at the stars.

It goes by fast.

I remind myself to suck the marrow out of each moment even if the moment appears to suck.

I want to savor each day, and not, as Henry David Thoreau wrote, “When I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Originally published at

Cara Bradley

Written by

Body-mind teacher and author seeking flow states, peak experiences and a high definition life

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