“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
~ Andy Dufresne
Many years ago, when I was still young, before I started moving to a new city every year, I received the same advice with frequency. That advice: “Do it while you’re young.”
It’s a pretty common bit of wisdom that gets handed down from the old and wizened to the young and wide-eyed. It’s excellent advice, too, if only because inertia is a powerful force, and the longer you put off your crazy, impractical dreams, the harder it will be to ever accomplish them.
If you do do it while you’re young – whatever ‘it’ is in your personal ambition – people will hate you for it. They will slag you off, both to your face and behind your back. They will criticize you for being “unrealistic” and “impractical” or tear you down because you pursued your dream in a way different than they would have (if they had had the balls to pursue it at all).
The advice and the reproach are both a product of deep dissatisfaction. On a number of occasions when the helpful elder was offering their unsolicited guidance, they would follow up their injunction with a woeful story of opportunities missed, paths not taken, planes not jumped out of. If you follow the advice and go after that dream of yours, those same people who told you to go out and do it will think you’re an idiot for actually doing it. Maybe they’re right.
Frankly, most people don’t give up on their dreams because they’re lazy. They do it because of fear, and there is plenty to fear in this world. Pursuing a dream increases your chances of ending up penniless and alone. And if that thought terrifies you, you can always give up.
Few people get out of their youth without at least a few regrets. Most have a list longer than Santa’s. But while there will always be something to regret (or regert) no matter how well you’ve lived your life, it’s far less physically tasking to regret something you have done than something you never even attempted.
There’s no right way to live your life, but there are plenty of wrongs ways, and most of them involve criticizing the choices of others.
So, do it while you’re young. Whatever it is. Traveling? Yep. Pursuing an art career? Absolutely. Moving across the country/world? For sure. Get married? Yeaaaa…. er, no. Don’t do that. That’s actually the worst thing you can do when you’re young. But all the other stuff, definitely.
Which is not to say that becoming a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher or some other profession is a bad choice. Go for it, but maybe do some other things first while you’re still young enough to stay up 48 hours straight for a music festival or free enough to pack up everything and start over on a whim. People who say “Life is short” are wrong. Life is the longest measure of time any one of us will ever know, so don’t worry about running out of time to “find a career.” You’ve got time.
The truth is, we all get old, but only a select few are ever truly young.