So there I was, Minneapolis MN, eating at the Fridays in the airport after being told I was going to have an overnight 15 hour layover. Typically I would be pissed but there are just some things you can’t do anything about, so instead of bitching about how the airport can’t do this and they need to give me something for my troubles, I spoke with a ticketing agent and explained the situation, a little charm, a smile, and an upgrade to first class in the morning. Can’t complain about that. But anyway I digress. Back to Fridays, I love the Jack Daniels sauce, and mix that with steak and those mashed potatoes and you’ll have a difficult time talking to me for those 15 minutes it takes to clear my plate. But at this time a guy was sitting next to me at the bar and started to talk about football. I joined in the conversation and it evolved into where we were from, why we were where we were and where we were going. I wish I could picture what he looks like but in my mind I just see a silhouette. I don’t remember the man but I remember the words. This guy was talking about his life and this girl that he was in love with. He said he was off to Texas to find her because he doesn’t want to live another day without her by his side. “Life is too short”, he said, “to not follow your heart. Love is in the heart” He didn’t know what he was going to do when he got to Texas and he didn’t think that everything but his soon to be relationship would work out right away. Was he going to stay in Texas? Find a job? He didn’t know nor really cared. He told me he’s been traveling for the past year, “ya know, just enjoying the scenery”, and that he’s met a lot of interesting people. And most of them all say the same thing, do what makes you happy. You may find riches but if you do it just for the money and say fuck the happiness you’ll either die miserable or realize you have nothing. Of course there are those people who only care about money, they need it, they crave it and if they don’t have enough of it, well lets just say Bernie Madoff and leave it at that. I’m also not saying money isn’t important, you cannot support yourself or a family on $50 a week but don’t sell your happiness for currency, it’s not worth it. So this guy leaves the bar and I’m left with my steak and our conversation in my head and wonder if he was thinking about it too. Does he know that what he told me is still with me today? I doubt it. Not because it was insignificant but I think some people either give advice not knowing that what they are saying is having an impact or they give advice because they know its good. They know it will be cherished and they don’t need to remember what was said because they didn’t say it for their own benefit.
16 hours later when I was sitting in first class on my way home to Jersey my riding buddy, an older guy from Minneapolis, began telling me the secret of life that he learned. He said he used to be a financial advisor for some big firm on Wall St. and had it all, fine cars, luxury housing, traveling expenses, the works, yet he wasn’t happy with his life. His marriage failed, his health was on a decline because of the stress from his job, etc. So he quit. He said fuck it to the 21st Century American Dream and started to teach at whatever University is in or around the Twin Cities. It was there that he met his current girlfriend who he was going to propose to later that year (which by this time he should be married), his health was better and he actually looked forward to going to work. His girlfriend was a professor of economics at NYU and he was going to get a position as a finance professor by the next semester. He told me that he had riches and everything people could want and it did nothing but torture him because his heart was in the wrong place. I asked him if he was happy now because he had the money to support his dream, after all he was still flying first class. He said he would give it all up, all the money and knowledge of finances for a job he looked forward to doing every morning and a woman he looked forward to seeing every night. I’m lucky, he said, because I have the money but life is too short to be working for your death. You never know when your number is up, it could be years from now or it could be in an hour if this plane were to crash into the Appalachians. Close your eyes and think about what you would feel if you knew you had a moment left to live. Would you think about the terror of dying because you have nothing to leave behind and there is nothing outside materials that you cherish? Or would you think about a lover and the way their body felt against yours, the look in their eyes when the two of you spoke of love? Would you think about your friends and a night you all were together; a night where time stood still and nothing else but freedom mattered? Would you think about the experiences you haven’t reached yet like watching the sun set over the ocean as you stand on the southern tip of Cape May, seeing the Acropolis in Greece, or floating on a boat off the shore of Baja California as the sun rises to create another perfect day? Do what you can to bring yourself true happiness and learn what you can to understand the difference between real life and make-believe.
Most recently I met a man named Godfry. He’s a regular at my job who comes in and talks to me about life and maintaining a peace within yourself. He was born in Guyana and legally immigrated to the USA several years ago to be closer to his sister. He speaks about a range of things but almost always remarks on the power of a sound mind. Godfry is the kind of man who has given thousands of dollars away to two or three different people (all of whom he knew) who have claimed to need it and every time they have stiffed him with a payment. Most people would be up in arms and sue the people he gave the money to for restitution but he always says that people who would take a thousand dollars from a friend and not repay them have bigger issues than money. It’s devolved human nature to take for your own use and never consider giving back in any way but it’s a higher mind that takes a pebble and repays with a mountain. One time he asked me if I ever sat inside my mind (meaning meditation) and I said that I have done so in the past but don’t practice meditation all the time. He said to me that some people would go to jail and lose their minds by the time they came out, he on the other hand would leave jail with a stronger mind then when he went in. A peaceful mind is a key to happiness because it allows you to see past the anger and pain to the truth. A peaceful mind lets you see the world for what it is and not just whats on the surface. He told me that he walks around sometimes and can see people in fancy cars and designer clothing and on the outside they look vibrant and alive but when he sees them, really Sees them, he notices how some of them are empty. It’s like a shell walking around in someone else’s dream come true. You’re not tempted by materials when your content with yourself. When you can live within your mind and find the answers or the comfort from life’s problems you may find that life slows down a little.
I think about the people I’ve met and the stories I’ve heard and try to apply it to my own life. An author wrote “I’m not original, I’m a combined effort of everyone I’ve ever met,” and it’s true. Our lives are changed by the people we know and meet and each one may teach us something different that enforces an aspect of our life for better or for worse. In the end, we’re all going to end up the same way; dead. So I say this. If we’re all going to die, we’re all on the same path. Do you work to live or live to work? Do you do what everyone tells you to or do you live for yourself? Will you follow your heart and your dreams or will you work for a check and a nice house? Whatever you chose remember that it’s not the destination that you should look forward to, it’s the journey.