“Before I Die, I Want To…” is the title of a beautiful TED Talk by Candy Chang from New Orleans. It’s a short 6 minute window into the beautiful heart and mind of a young woman who understands the power of community, communication and the gift of life. Watch the video and then come back – I’m going to share with you my thoughts on this topic. I hope you share in the comments some of yours.
There were 3 points that Ms. Chang made that resonated with me:
1. That it’s easy to get caught up in our daily lives – our schedules, our routines, our autopilot behaviour – and forget what is really important. Occasionally, we have wake-up moments. Maybe a death, an illness, or some other sort of trauma will give us a shake and remind us of the fragility of life and the importance of using our time in big and amazing ways. And then time goes by, we go back to work, back to our responsibilities and fall asleep again, so to speak.
In my own experience, I see how this happened to me though I can’t actually pinpoint timeline. In high school, I was well aware of the work that I could do in this world to serve others. I had plans to raise awareness of issues that mattered to me. I wanted hands-on experiences changing lives and bettering the world. And then I went to University and all I could focus on was not failing my classes! And I couldn’t figure out how to make a viable career or secure life by doing the things I initially knew were important to me, so I forgot about them and got swept away by the current of the mainstream.
When my mom died at the age of 55 in 2009, something inside me went OH MY GOODNESS…the clock is ticking and I can’t put my life on hold anymore. I had already started journalling again months prior to her death but afterward, my writing became a platform for who I truly was inside to leap up and say, “I’m here! And on purpose!”
And then one day in early 2010, a situation came to my mind that I was dealing with that made me crazy angry. Because I was pregnant and concerned about the baby’s reaction to my anger, I knew I had to take a step back and remember what was truly important to me. And that same night, when I found myself journalling about serving the world, I was brought back to my Centre.
It’s important to me to share that with you because it was an exercise and an experience in snapping out of something that was leading nowhere and remembering what my purpose was here. And purpose is so much more healthy than falling asleep at the wheel.
2. Ms. Chang talked about how her fill-in-the-blank wall was filled up by the next day; her neighbours and passers-by were so eager to share with the world what they wanted before they died. That told me how much every one of us wants our voice heard. Everyone has something to say. Everyone has something that they want before they die…and when they are asked what that is, most people will actually think about it and share it.
I’ve asked you to look at your death here. Not to be morbid, not to put fear in you. Let’s face it, none of us gets out of this life alive. The question isn’t “Am I really going to die?” The question, I think, is “Am I really going to live?” And how? When you are 90 something years old, warm in your bed, what are you going to wish you had done? What would you regret not doing? And why aren’t you doing it?
3. Ms. Chang talked about the two most important things we have being time and our relationships with others. I completely agree. Time is obvious – when it runs out, so do our opportunities. Relationships with others, I think, tends to slip down the priority list these days. Everyone’s idea of what it takes to cultivate a relationship is different. Whose idea are you living by? Are you doing everything you want to be doing with the people who you truly care about? These are important questions and not just to be evaluated at those wake-up moments that I described earlier.
If you have a response to Ms. Chang’s TED Talk, or if you’d like to fill in the blank: Before I die, I want to…, please leave it in a comment here. I totally agree that getting to know each other in public spaces helps reduce distance between us and can bring about opportunities to help one another and ourselves.
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