I’m sitting on the edge of a bed, staring out the window of a cabin on the north end of Flathead Lake. The sun is shining on an early spring afternoon. It is the first day of Spring Break 2014. Only… I don’t have spring break anymore. Thrust from 17 years of past spring breaks into this strange and uncomfortable world of post-graduation work, I can’t help but feel a strange sensation. A growing itch, a restlessness that I recognize from deep within myself. Forty more years of this? Forty years without SPRING BREAK? With two weeks of vacation per year? To be honest I’m not quite sure what to make of it.
Recently I listened to a podcast wherein a Hospice nurse of 15 years shared some very important wisdom she had come to know from her years doing end-of-life care. Spending countless hours caring for and conversing with those soon to die, she had compiled a list of the most common regrets from their lives. The top two regrets struck me as the most powerful, and most complimentary. The number two regret was the one that I assume most people have heard before, from parents or grandparents perhaps: Regret of spending too much time working, and not enough time with family and friends; emphasizing the material ‘hamster wheel’ instead of meaningful relationships. This is a trap that is so easy for all of us to fall into. Society tells us we should be working more and more, that we need to appear successful, we need to own our homes, new cars, etc. This is the drive that is pushing many of us into vast amounts of debt, that invariably leads to more issues in those relationships we so often are already neglecting.
The most common regret of the soon-to-die, struck me deep to my core: The regret of not having the courage to live life on one’s own terms. To allow society, culture, family, whatever, to push them to live in ways that weren’t true to themselves. Often that seems to manifest in regret number two, but I think there is a much deeper level to it than simply spending too much time working. There is great cognitive dissonance when we spend our time, our most precious resource, in ways that we don’t really believe are important.
These subjects are not often mentioned in our schools, colleges or universities. Parents often push their children to get good jobs, make more money, or climb the corporate ladder (I was lucky enough to have parents who didn’t do this, but I see it often amongst my peers). I can’t help but think that there is much to gain from these insights into the minds of the near-deceased. Although I will certainly have many regrets at the end of my life, I truly hope that those top two are not on my list.
Thanks for reading,