Live!

Don’t waste any time.

As far as I can determine, we have only one life to live on this planet. Some may disagree with this. Those are exponents who believe in issues such as reincarnation. Which is their good right. However, I am not one of them. I’m more down-to-earth. Although I firmly believe that there must be more between Heaven and Earth, I also firmly believe that we have this one life to live, and with the time we are given, we must accomplish whatever we want to accomplish within the realm in that very life.

When I look around, I see many people. Hard-working folks, trying to make ends meet for themselves and their families. I see individuals striving relentlessly to climb that social and/or corporate ladder. I see people struggling to find their own identity or to regain it after it was taken away one way or the other. I see them picking up the pieces after having been traumatized, in an effort to find and mend themselves again. I see folks just going through the motions, but forgetting to really live this one life.

Every choice each and everyone of us makes is a valid one. For him or her. Who am I to say that someone’s choice is wrong? However, what I also observe is a lot of folks who either sail or struggle through their existence here and are sort of forgetting how to “live”. Giving me a sense of “missed opportunities”. I realize that this sentiment is a very subjective one on my part. I can’t rule out the possibility that those individuals actually feel or really are happy that way. A sense of “just being”.

That’s not me. Basically, I lack nothing. I have a roof over my head. It’s a home which I’ve sculpted out as my personal Man Cave. I have a 15-year old car. It runs, it still does the job reasonably well. I have money in the bank. Not much but sufficient to not get into financial trouble and head off any backlash imposed on me. I have a stable job which finances my livelihood. And above all, I have my great passion, the military aviation art thingy which, to me, defines me in the earthly life I live here.

I am a true people person. I love to interact with other individuals from all walks of life. Listen to their stories, learn about their lives and discover what moves them. This interaction runs through all generations, backgrounds, races, religions, political views. Lively talks, discussions and debates. On a basis of equality. Or, just silent company. I don’t judge and I don’t allow others to judge me. Through all these human interactions I learn about life itself. It’s how I learn to make the most of my own life.

Some stories get to me. That fellow bus driver who, after decades of driving his rounds, received a well-deserved retirement. Only for us, who stayed on the job, to hear that he died within two months after retirement due to cancer. Oh yes, while still working, he enjoyed his life, both on the job and with his family. But to hear that he was not given more time as a retiree, that’s quite a sour grape to swallow. He was full of stories of what he was going to do. All that was brutally cut short.

How about the story of that lady, in her early forties, who had been struggling to find and build a happy life with a man that she felt was the love of her life. Only to discover that this was not the case at all. At least on his part. Taking her fifteen years to find out that she had built her existence and happiness on quick sand. With a guy who not only gave her a child but also a shitload of traumas. Narcissism which has built her a prison, full of trust issues and loss of identity. She’s almost giving up.

It’s stories like these that get to me. About a year ago I’ve lost a sister. A second mother to me. Far too soon. She had led a colorful life. Filled with both joy and trauma. On average it was not a bad life at all. Especially in recent years. With her sweet husband she was on the threshold of the good life of retirement. Full of plans. This was going to be THEIR time. And, in a short brutal way, it was cut short. Setting yourself up to go for that good life, and BOOM, you’re gone. That’s very painful to witness.

And now, all of us are living through tense times again. With a war raging in Ukraine. On behalf of Putin, the Russian Federation Army is reeking havoc among the Ukrainian people. Many innocent civilians become refugees and flea to the West. Simply being the people persons that we are, my girlfriend Lidia and I embraced the motto “don’t talk but act” and picked up a few in Poland. It’s about looking in that mirror, and liking what you see. That you’ve made a difference for some.

A few years ago, on yet another funeral, of my niece’s, I held a eulogy. Containing a message that I had agreed upon with her. Because both of us firmly believed in the content of that message. I had promised her to keep it alive. Still do. That message is: Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is not promised. There is only today. There is a reason why the English word for the “now” is “present”. Because it’s truly a “gift”. One you should grab and make the most of. And yes, be fearless and relentless about it.

So, if you have a bucket list, work that list now. Take that travel. Buy that beautiful neckless. Get that tattoo. Jump on the counter of that bar and sing your heart out. Be weird. Go on adventures. Make memories. Share those with others. Realize that love and friendship are the name of the game. Don’t work your ass off and die. Don’t sit in that corner, moping, and die. That money, house, car or other possessions you can’t take with you to your grave or urn. Love, friendship and memories you can…

The time is now! Just do it! Live!

My 96-year old dad and me, enjoying quality time out.

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Peter van Stigt

Peter van Stigt

Dutch, military aviation artist, civilian, not a pilot but a city bus driver, independent thinker, but most of all: human being.