Nike said it. A lot. Then Shia Labeouf yelled it in front of a green screen. Now I’m writing it in the vain hopes that I’ll possibly help someone improve their life.
A few years ago I had a random thought. It went something like “I’m going to die one day.” That thought, and what it truly meant, summoned a storm of images, but one imagined snippet of my possible life really stuck with me. I was older, not old, but older. Perhaps fifty. I was dying. Lying there, in my bed , I was on the edge of death, and I was sad. Not because I was leaving this world, but because I was leaving this world without having done all the things I wanted to do. I hadn’t written my stories (literally and metaphorically).
That single thought changed my life. From that moment, I told myself that I would look at every decision and consider the consequences, and whether I would look back on it from the future and wish I had taken the chance. Or, if I was willing to let that one slide in favor of a better road for me, a better story.
I dedicated myself to my writing, because being published is a dream that I’m not willing to let go without a fight. That isn’t to say that I love writing, because writing sucks. It’s painful and filled with anxiety and self doubt and fear of rejection. But, when I finish something and I give it to someone to read and they connect with any part of it… that feeling is nearly incomparable. It’s on a level with having children, and seeing them grow and flourish. They’re both things you’ve had a hand in creating, and you’re sending them out into the world to fend for themselves.
I quit my job. That’s a little dramatic. I changed careers. At 32, I moved from a field I was competent in, one where people came to me for answers, to become the new guy in a subject that I found fascinating. Now, I’m working in that field, and making reasonably good money, and loving it. If I had stayed, I wouldn’t be miserable, but I’d always have been wondering what if.
Now I don’t have to.
So, my advice, wholly unsolicited, is to just go for it. Sure, weigh the consequences, but realize that long-term regret is perhaps the biggest consequence you will face in this life. Write your story the way you want to. It won’t be easy, in fact the harder it is, the better it will be, but it will be your story. Your life. Nobody else’s.