What does it mean to truly live and not waste a life? It's a question that often crosses my mind, especially as I find myself in the twilight years of my own journey. I've calculated that I have roughly one thousand days left to savor this existence. (Medical research shows that with the best rest and food and exercise, we can increase our longevity, which is genetically determined, by maybe, two to three years more) Will I look back with regret, realizing that I spent it all chasing an elusive dream of making a difference in the world? Will I realize that by taking care of others, I neglected to truly live my own life?
So, what does it mean to live a life and feel a deep sense of satisfaction?I believe the answer to this question varies depending on whom you ask. Some may argue that living well is all about achieving great things, building and creating, while others find fulfillment in the impact they've made on the world or the quality of the relationships they've nurtured within their families.
It seems then, that there are two schools of thought on how to live a life free of remorse of having wasted it. One interprets living well as finding joy in what life has to offer: surfing, traveling, relishing delicious meals, and cherishing great company, and the measure of their satisfaction lies in their happiness. For me, taking this school of living, I've found my answer in how much I laugh—the kind that emanates from deep within my belly. Beyond laughter, these experiences can be as simple as participating in community singing, attending an accordion retreat, or savoring a sweet moment with a grandchild. These moments, for me, epitomize seizing what life offers.
The second school of thought validates a life well spent by measuring the contributions one has made to the world—be it through inventions, teaching, or leading a nation. It is defined by the extent to which one has made a difference to leave a world in a better condition than the world one came to.
For me, if I were to spend my entire life simply taking what life has to offer, laughing, doing the things I enjoy, and satisfying my own desires, I wouldn't be content. I am inclined toward the giving type. What makes me feel most alive is practicing my profession—lecturing, consulting, and knowing that I have brought some light into someone's life, solved a problem, or improved their quality of life. There's an indescribable fulfillment that comes from it, and it doesn't feel like work to me because I genuinely love what I do.
However, upon reflection, I realize that my life has leaned too heavily toward giving, with not enough laughter, accordion playing, and community singing to make my heart soar. A life well spent, I believe, must strike a balance between giving to life and taking from it. The relative weight of each—giving and taking—depends on our individual preferences. It cannot be exclusively one or the other.
In my case, it's time for a change, or else I will close my eyes for eternity with a profound sense of remorse that I didn't fully embrace and enjoy what life had to offer.
Now, let me turn the question to you, my dear friend. What does to live a full life mean to you? Just some thoughts to ponder.