Today is my late father’s birthday.
The good ole chap had simple tastes and wasn’t demanding late in his life. He wasn’t much into the cake but he used to take a bite. It was all about the family gathering for him, the kids, and the grandkids.
I do miss my dad a great deal. My mom was trying to remind me of his birthday when we spoke this morning, and I didn’t tell her that it’s been on my mind for a month now.
It’s rather ironic to me now since when I was a boy and a young man, we used to butt heads quite a lot. It runs in the family I guess because I’m raising a son who’s giving me a taste of the same medicine.
But walking a mile in your dad’s shoes will cure you of the follies of youth. Raising a family, having a job, and bearing the full weight of the necessary herculean responsibility, are humbling to the best of us.
It’s strange to think of him passing away. A man of very few words. I used to call my mom in the morning and ask her how they were both doing, and she would pass him the phone to say hello.
I’m still keeping the habit with my mom, but she’s not passing the phone to anyone anymore.
I do mention Tim Ferriss quite a lot because I’m an avid fan and because I’ve learned quite a number of useful things off of him, and he also pointed me towards Tim Urban.
The “Wait but Why” blog is a legend amongst blogs, and Tim Urban is a very interesting and quite intelligent guy. In his 2015 blog post “The Tail End” Tim Urban mentions that he realized that by the time he graduated from high school, he actually spent 93% of the in-person time he had with his parents.
I think about that now quite a lot in my early forties. As you might have seen, I’ve actually marked off the years that had passed of my life so far, just to put what’s left in its proper perspective.
I guess I’m also writing this post because last night was the very first time in my life to rush to the Emergency Room with chest pains and symptoms of a heart attack. I’ve actually considered that I might not live through the night.
You don’t actually ponder death as a young man. The notion seems so foreign and distant, that you don’t even see it. But there will be a time when it gets more and more on your radar until you cannot ignore it anymore.
The Stoics talk a lot about “Memento Mori.” How we should keep our mortality in full view of our actions. It helps you appreciate the time you have in the world. But that doesn’t necessarily mean to time travel with our thoughts into the past or future under the shroud of morbid thoughts. You’re only required to have a sober and realistic appreciation of the precious time we have to live.
Life is indeed long. It is not short at all if we only choose to live at each present moment as it is.
Some people choose to be haunted by the ghosts from their past and they miss the here and now for the bygone. Others have their sights set so far into the future they torment themselves in the present with desire and discontentment.
But the worst of all are those who have their consciousness on pause as they go through life with their deep dives into addiction and escapism from the past, present, and future. To those people, life is but a glimpse, and years—nay, entire decades—go by in the blink of an eye.
My advice to everyone is to live in the present moment, forgo the past, and not worry about the future.
The past is gone, it cannot hurt you. Your past doesn’t define you. Both your failures and triumphs mean nothing because fortune is capricious, jealous, mischievous, and vicious, and she can surprise you in innumerable ways.
When thinking about the past I love to quote those legal disclaimer cited by every investment service and professional in the world:
“Past performance is not indicative of future results.”
You define your results every single day by the actions you keep taking.
And this is exactly how I like to think about the future. The future is nothing but another day where we get to choose if we are going to do something useful, something virtuous, something kind, or something of value and service to others.
Habits are the things you intentionally decide to do every single day. You go about taking a shower in the morning one day, then the next day comes and you have also made the choice to have a shower in the morning, and if you keep this up for the following days as well, that is what we call a habit.
Your future starts with the action you take today and whatever that action will snowball into becoming into the future. If you do something consistently for a long time you begin to take advantage of the compounding interest it generates.
I believe that it is important to lead a good life as soon as we are aware that we need to do so. As soon as we shed away the veils of self-conceit, immaturity, ego, and bitterness. As soon as we figure out that kindness is more important than being right or righteous.
We must set our priorities straight. Take care of first things first.
I believe that we all need to cherish the relationships we have with our loved ones, our families, our parents and siblings, and those friends we consider family.
Time slips away through our fingers like grains of sand, but only the wise get to really witness it.
Happy birthday, dad. I truly miss you.