We all remember our wildest friend growing up, don’t we? The kid who voluntarily got into more shit than everyone else. The big risk taker who wasn’t afraid of anything, loved the spotlight, and seemed to have unshakeable confidence. It was if they hadn’t a care in the world, and in many cases, these lucky bastards managed to dodge getting into big trouble no matter what they got themselves into. If they did get in trouble, it was usually a slap on the wrist and they’d be back to their old tricks the very next day.
I’ll never forget my friend like that. We’ll call him Francois. That’s not his real name, but I think he has some French in him, so Francois it is. Francois was easily the most popular guy at school. He was charming as fuck, he was handsome, got straight As, and he was on track to become a Division 1 athlete, maybe even professional. Everyone loved him. But he was also a bad boy. He’d be willing to fight everyone, he tried every drug under the sun, and he kept a list of all the girls he had slept with (which I recall reaching 100 some time within the first few months of college). I remember he even branded himself one time with a hot fork just for the fun of it. The list goes on.
Francois and I played sports together and he had taken a particular liking to me. Throughout high school he was one of my closest friends, and I never quite understood why. I was a pretty mild kid back then; easy to get along with, but hesitant towards things that were unfamiliar and much more insecure than I realized at the time. Francois and I had a similar sense of humor and the same novelty for talking about how hot our English teacher was, but I suppose our different personalities leveled one another out and that deep down, a part of his interest in me stemmed from knowing how in awe I was every time he did something ridiculous. Crazy shit or not, I liked Francois as a person, and though we aren’t in touch much these days, I still love him and remember our time together fondly.
There was one night I remember us doubling up the speed limit in his Jeep as per usual, and I asked him why he got into all the shenanigans he got into; how he was willing and able to push the limit so much in what seemed to be every aspect of life. He said something along the lines of, “When my grandfather died, I decided I should live every day like it was my last.”
Whether or not his antics were truly the result of his grandfather’s death, I don’t know. High schoolers love making deep stories out of themselves and putting themselves in the center of a tragic, triumphant story such as that. It may have been a product of immaturity, I don’t know. But the part about living every day like it was his last seemed right on the spot to me. By that age, about 17 or so, I’d heard the “live every day like it’s your last” idea enough times to be familiar with it. I knew it was a credo that many people lived by and swore by. I didn’t pay much mind to it as I enjoyed a more balanced path, but I got it. And it’s not until recently that I’ve taken “live every day like it’s your last” off the shelf to really give it another look.
Though the principle is the same, as always, this idea means different things to different people. To some, like Francois, it’s about living dangerously. To others, it’s about living freely, without ties to anyone or anything. To a different person, it’s about seeing all the places you want to see and doing all of the things you want to do. Each version of this lifestyle can make it’s own argument, but what most people living by this philosophy fail to take into consideration is how fucking bonkers it is.
When taken literally, the idea of living each day like it’s your last is absolute insanity. Take a second to really imagine what your life would be like if you were convinced that each time you woke up was your last day on earth. Granted very few people, if anyone, live out the rule to such an extreme nature. But even finding a medium between the thought that there’s a 100% chance you’ll die today and the way we’re conditioned to live, which is assuming there’s like a .0001% chance you’re going to die is ludicrous, and very unnatural compared to what we’re used to.
Energetically, living such a life would be all but unsustainable. It’s beautiful at first, weightless even. When you’re young and first applying such a principle, you’re looked up to just as Francois was. You’re inspired to fearlessly pursue all that you’ve wanted to do, leaving no stone unturned when you breathe your last breath before the clock hits midnight.
But you probably have a lot more midnights to go before breathing your last breath. Assuming that’s the case, what to do with all the time in between?
Well this was the case with Francois as he’s still alive and kicking today. But it’s been no easy journey, as things became a little more difficult for him once he finished high school. He did go on to become a Division 1 athlete, only to be kicked off the team and out of school for drug abuse. He did continue to fuck everything that moved, isolating him from not only his devout girlfriend but many of his friends as well. He gained weight, his hair got straggly, and for a while, he lost that twinkle that he always had in his eye as a kid.
Francois’ ruthless pursuit of living each day like it was his last had officially caught up with him, because after being committed to it for so long, he couldn’t turn it off. It came to a point where it was no longer about freedom, but instead about outdoing himself. Creating such an extreme base of daily living, combined with the mentality to live each day like it was his last, burnt him out. He had vilified the mundane yet beautiful parts of life to such an extent that the image he needed to maintain for himself and others became too much to bear.
To live each day like it’s your last for a long enough time will turn you against the things that you take for granted, and these things are often the most rewarding aspects of life.
If you’re wondering about Francois, it brings a tear of joy to my eye to say that he was able to revitalize his comfortability with the simpler aspects of life. He picked himself up, got healthy again, and is committed to a girl that seems to make him happy. The smarts that he always had prevailed and he was able to become a lawyer. I couldn’t be happier for him. He was a good friend and I’d always hoped he would beat this thing before it beat him.
What is the solution, though? How can we reshape our thinking in such a way that enables us to make the most of our lives without being at risk for burning out? I have a proposition: live each day like yesterday was your last.
What the hell does that mean, Greg? Does it mean I’m dead and I should go haunt motherfuckers? Do I fulfill everyone’s childhood fantasy and use my ghostly invisibility to spy on hotties when they’re getting changed?
No, but you’re on the right track because the first step is to get comfortable with death. Death is one of those things that we’d rather not think about. It’s depressing, whether it’s our own or someone else’s (most of the time). You ponder it aloud and people say “Sweetie don’t talk like that, you’re making everyone sad”. Next time you find yourself in such a situation, tell that moron that death is inevitable and that we should become friends with it.
To consider death for all it is is absolutely crucial and unexpectedly serves as a major catalyst for attaining happiness. In contemplating death with patience and truth, it’s hard not to arrive at a place of great perspective; of great appreciation. Death can and will happen, and the more we lean into this fact, the more encouraged we can be to feel a true sense of gratitude towards that which we have while we have it. With this gratitude comes a subset of knowledge as to the true value possessed by anything in your life, and therefore what you need and need not keep around.
Try it. Imagine you’re one of those people that died for a few minutes and were resuscitated back to life for a second chance at this whole thing. What’s really worth giving a shit about? I’d guess it’s in the vicinity of roughly 1% of the things you’re currently giving a shit about. If you died yesterday, would be getting into the argument you’re in? What you be worried about what you’re wearing? Would you be working all those extra hours? Would you be bitching about traffic?
All right maybe you would be bitching about traffic, but you’re picking up what I’m putting down. To live each day as if yesterday was your last means to reprioritize and see things for what they really are. It’s to grasp that which you need and that which you don’t. Old people tend to be great at this, so if you’re struggling with it, go consult your nearest geriatric.
Still don’t buy it? Still stuck on living every day like it’s the last? All right, I’ll meet you half way. You’re allowed to live everyday like it’s everyone else’s last. How’s that? You’re allowed to treat people with tenderness, kindness and understanding. You’re allowed to hug people like you’re never going to see them again. You’re allowed to make peace with everyone you’ve bickered with. You’re allowed to drink in the fragility of life.
Got it? Good. Great. Grand. Wonderful. No yelling on the bus.
You know the drill. Questions and concerns can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or the contact page. Hope to hear from you kids. Enjoy your remaining years.