How to figure out what’s important to you
That’s the amount of time that passed between my dad’s cancer diagnosis and the day he passed away.
And honestly, it was more like 9 months, 2 weeks, 1 day, 8 hours, and 17 minutes.
Not that anyone’s counting, right?
It’s hard to believe that the one-year mark of that terrible day is fast approaching. Admittedly, I’ve spent the majority of this leg in the bereavement journey thinking about the solemn, horrible end.
The Sunday morning when his heart beat for the last time after I told him he could let go now.
The sight of his weakening body on life support.
His being unconscious for the last 2 weeks and our therefore not being able to have two-sided conversations with him as we said our goodbyes.
I had come to separate my life into two distinct sections: pre-cancer-dianosis and post-cancer-diagnosis.
Pre-cancer-diagnosis featured all the happy chapters.
Post-cancer-diagnosis featured all the dismal ones.
But then I realized something. There was joy even in the midst of the days following the diagnosis, weren’t there?
Today, in fact, I recalled one such moment. I had pilfered scrubs from one of the many dispensers located in the E.R. hallways. After spending a few moments dressing the part, I walked into my dad’s hospital room.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Velez. I’ll be your doctor for today.”
He came to attention and greeted me. And then a hint of recognition hit his eyes and he brightened with a smile. And as for me, I got a good laugh out of it.
Now I know better. Now I know that remembering the heartbreak alone doesn’t serve me, nor does it paint an accurate picture of my life story. Because even in the midst of total despair, the smallest candle flame of light (whether in the form of a smile, of laughter, or in holding someone’s hand) can penetrate the darkness.
But the real reason I bring up this topic is to remind you that time is fleeting.
My dad only had 10 months. And think about it: he didn’t even know he had only 10 months left to live.
He regularly said that once he was done with the treatment, he was going to live his life differently. He was going to travel more and he wanted to make more friends.
So, I have a question for you, Friend.
If you found out that today was going to be your last day on earth, what would you most regret?
For me, there are two things that come to mind:
1) I would regret not sharing my fiction with the world.
2) I would regret not loving more people.
This tells me that writing stories and making friends is extremely important to me, whether I’m consciously aware of it or not.
What about you? What would you most regret?
Not writing that book?
Not starting that business and instead staying in that soul-sucking career?
Not taking that trip to see the world?
Not overcoming your fears in order to be fully present in a relationship?
Not forgiving that person who hurt you?
There’s no right or wrong answer. Only you can truly know the response to the question.
So again, I ask: If you found out that today was going to be your last day on earth, what would you most regret?
When you get a chance today, take out a piece of paper and write that question on top. Then spend some time soul-searching and write down whatever comes to mind, uncensored.
The things that come up are clues to what is most important to you right now.
Heed them. Listen to them. Absorb them.
And then take one action step toward realizing them.
This may mean having a hard conversation, looking for a new job, saving up money for an around-the-world trip, or putting yourself back on the dating scene.
And yes, it may be scary! But think about how much more tragic it will be to look back on your life and see all the things that you wanted to achieve but were too afraid to pursue.
And for those of you who may not have an answer to my question, be gentle with yourself. Remember: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Let reflecting on the question be your first step and celebrate yourself for having the courage to do even that. Pray for guidance, and in time, your heart will reveal its desires.
I believe we all came here to add beauty and love to the world, Friend. And I also believe that the insights this simple but thought-provoking question will excavate can point you in the direction of the path you’re meant to take to achieve your contribution.
Best of all? I believe you have the heart and courage it takes to complete the journey.