My friend Dan is one of my favorite people, a title he has earned in part by being one of the most predictably unpredictable people I’ve ever met. When we met at Starbucks, I wasn’t sure we’d get along – he was exactly the sort of cynical kid that I tend to annoy (in fact, I think I did annoy him quite a bit in the beginning). Unpredictably, Dan and I are the same in as many ways as we are different, and through a series of ice breaker questions, we forged a friendship that finally made me feel at home here in Oregon. A few years later, he’s still surprising me. (She thinks my tractor’s sexy? REAlly?)
Dan and his girlfriend Mel are probably the most frustratingly intelligent couple I’ve encountered – separately, they are both painfully smart, and together, they basically know everything. The trouble with smart people is the way they so often insist on making you think about your life and your reasons, and their constant need to know why you feel the way you do. It’s what I love most about them, their insistence on unsettling me, and it’s also annoying, because sometimes I get emails like this:
Blogger’s prompt: When I was in high school, the columnist Rick Reilly (Sports Illustrated) wrote a column about what he would do given the the predicament of having one year left to live. I wrote my own version for my college entrance essay. I wonder what yours would look like.
Of course, the problem with me is that I can’t walk away from an assignment. So, I’ve been wandering Portland for the last week or so pondering my impending doom. Cheery, no? I’ve come up with all kinds of wild plans – world tours, massive Disneyland excursions, skydiving and rocky mountain climbing and 2.7 seconds on Fu Manchu… and I’ve concluded that I hate this question. I hate it because it serves no real purpose but to raise another question: If these are the things I would do if I knew I was going to die, and I could die at any moment, why am I not already doing these things?
There are obvious answers, most of them financial – I have to work, I can’t afford the airfare for a world tour, and Disneyland is getting more expensive by the minute. Yet I keep coming back to a less obvious truth: if I really wanted to be on a world tour, I’d be out there, touring the world. If that was the desire of my heart, I wouldn’t hold back… I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. The truth is, seeing the world isn’t really what I’d want to do with one more year. It’s only what I think I should want to do. Because what I want to do, what I’d truly want to do, doesn’t sound grand enough. But here it is anyhow.
I’d stay up nights. Every night, I’d commission a different friend or relative to sit up with me, to walk with me, and make them tell me their stories. Stories are so very much improved by wee small hours… people open up when it’s dark and you can’t quite see them. I’d ask them to tell me all their thoughts on God ( 🙂 ), and I’d share mine. I’d sleep in mornings, but only after staying out late enough to catch a sunrise. I’d eat breakfast for lunch, and I wouldn’t care about calories or my health when I’m in my fifties… I’d have pancakes every day.
I’d quit my job and guilt my friends into housing me – split my time evenly between Portland, Creswell, and Morro Bay (my SJ relatives can make the drive). I’d take walks and sing songs with my father and listen, really listen, to everything he told me. I’d play cards with my mother and my sister as long as they wanted me to, and laugh with them, and sit in silence on the swing in the backyard with them, and watch Katelyn hide from bats. I’d watch silly TV with my mom until one or two in the morning. I’d spend hours just holding my grandmother’s hand and letting her love me.
I’d write letters, man, I’d write hundreds of letters full of things I’ve probably already said but want people to remember. I’d try to tell you all how beautiful you are, how I’m so stupidly lucky, and blessed, and grateful, and I wish you understood the sort of magic you have. I’d talk so much less and let you talk so much more. I’d drive over the speed limit. I’d get one heck of a crazy, career-limiting tattoo. If the opportunity arose, I’d fall recklessly in love and not worry about being rejected. Who says no to a dying girl? 😉
I’d call everyone, the scattered so many of you I love, and make you come hang out with me. I’d wave that pity card high and wear it proudly if it meant face time with those of you I never get to see. I’d try to make sure you’re going to be awesome, because being the tragic, dying friend gives me sudden power and profound wisdom, and you’re all going to listen to what I say. I’d warn you to brace yourselves for the pep talk.
Is it wrong that that’s all? I’d have late night conversations and pancakes and time with all of you. It sounds like such a Hallmark commercial, but it’s true. I hope you aren’t too dissatisfied with my answer, Dan. It’s all I can come up with.
Well, that isn’t entirely true. I might do all of those things, but I’d also blatantly refuse to have only one year to live. I’m not sure who decided my fate in our hypothetical, but I can’t imagine myself managing to be realistic about the whole thing – I’m never realistic about anything. So I guess, DMoe, my real answer is that I would wave my magic wand and refuse to die. So there. Now come talk to me until two in the morning. Bring that cute girl.