In a different time, I lived life in bright colours. Every day was a new opportunity for new experiences. Those new experiences opened my mind and helped me to realize how much larger the world was than the little corner I was used to.
I travelled. I visited 37 countries across 5 continents. I saw natural and human-made wonders, all kinds of living beings, and amazing art. I learned that no matter where we live, there is more that unites us than divides us.
I had a career that allowed me to do work that I was passionate about, and I got paid well for it.
On a more practical note, the financial responsibility that my parents drilled into me has served me very well. My home is paid off, and despite being unable to work much, I’m in a solid financial position. Had it not been for those years of saving and throwing extra money at my mortgage whenever I could, my situation would be very, very different right now. I will be forever grateful to my parents for those particular lessons.
Four years ago, there was a major turning point.
Life is different now.
A chronic, treatment-resistant mental illness has taken a lot of things off the table. The things that matter now are the smaller things. Smaller doesn’t mean they don’t have value; it’s just that they’re quieter, and more diffuse. There are no longer Moments with a capital-m, or at least not in a positive sense.
Travelling is no longer of any interest, and I suspect the places that remain on my list of countries to visit will remain unchecked.
It makes me very grateful that, when I was able to travel, I did not say to myself, “later.”
I took advantage of the gift of opportunity, and for most of my 20's and much of my 30's I did a month-long trip every year. “Later” was only for the places that were lower on my list. “Later” was never “nothing now.”
Henry David Thoreau wrote:
“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.”
While my ability to live large and in colour has been compromised by my illness, I can say with great certainty that when I am ready to die, I will not discover that my life had passed unlived.