In his memoir A Million Steps, Kurt Koontz recounts how his 490 mile hike along the historic Camino de Santiago route not only tests his physical and mental endurance but also forces him to re-evaluate his life and reflect on the choices he has made thus far.
While effortlessly striding along, (he never seems to fall victim to the maladies that afflict his fellow pilgrims), Koontz has what Oprah would call an “Ah Ha” moment. He suddenly realises how much of his life he has wasted and calculates just how few days he has left until his statistically pre-determined demise at the age of 80. It seems like a pretty substantial number to me, so at this point I must confess to feeling a certain lack of compassion for this physically fit and financially independent 48 years old retiree!
Nonetheless, despite my disdain, the notion stops me in my insomnia-induced reading tracks … assuming the same longevity, how many days do I have left?
Unable to contain my curiosity until morning, I fumble in the 3.00am darkness for a pen and paper to do the complex arithmetical calculation. After a few false starts, I figure out that I have to date lived for 21714 days, excluding leap year calculations, which are way too tricky for this hour. Further mental gymnastics reveal that I have only 7506 days left until my 80th birthday. Not too bad but still, time to get moving!
Now, I don’t need to walk 490 miles to figure out that life’s a journey but when, that very same morning, a friend sends me this cartoon and comments that in addition to being funny, it is a powerful philosophical metaphor for life, it struck a chord. Hopefully with time, experience and some introspection, but thankfully not always blisters and a backpack, we metamorphose from an immature ‘caterpillar’ into a colourful ‘butterfly’ sharing our (inner) beauty with the world. Sadly, however, some of us are doomed to learn little and spend our lives as dull, brown moths.
Like so many others, as a child I learned ‘the need to please’ and as an adult strove, although not always successfully, to be a good wife and friend, a caring mum and a diligent employee. All very commendable perhaps, but still very like a dull, brown moth!
I want to be a butterfly! I want to live all my (hopefully) 7506 days without regrets, so I have decided to rewrite the rules of my life and tap into my dreams and aspirations.
So, this is what I’ve come up with:
• Acquire less, do more
• Worry less and laugh more
• Love without reservation
• Abandon fear
• Travel, travel, travel and finally,
• Adopt the lyrics to my favourite Nickelback song that declare that “each day’s a gift and not a given right”.
What are your dreams and goals for your remaining days, however many or few there may be? See if you can inspire others by leaving your ideas in the comments section!