This post may start off rather depressing, but stick with me, there is a lesson to be learned!
Last year around November, an old friend of mine passed away suddenly, he was 21. Although we did not hang out, every time our paths crossed back in the day, we would share some laughs and talk. This guy was a good dude, I could spend all day listing his qualities, but what I admired most is that he always looked after his younger brothers (one is my age and the other is a little younger). It seems like it’s always the best people that are taken from us. A similar story happened when I was in the 5th grade, a person older than me, who was a much better person than I could ever hope to be, someone I looked up to, passed away at the age of 15. (the red bracelet I wear every day is for him).
I struggled with this for a while. If people that are this good can die so young, what the heck does that say for me? It’s really humbling when you realize that you are not the “main character” of life, and that you too, will pass on one day.
Many people ask me what my tattoo means. A maple leaf that has a skull faded in it. Some think it has to do with the military, others think it is inspired by the anti-hero The Punisher. It’s actually none of those things. (Although I do love the punisher, amazing show!!)
The maple leaf is for Canada, but what the skull symbolizes is the Latin Phrase “Memento Mori” —translated into english: “Remember that you have to die”. It is a reminder to stay humble, and allows me to go after what I want in life, with the mentality that there is ultimately nothing to lose. It is also a reminder that from the wealthiest, most accomplished and famous people, to the poorest of the poor, everyone is mortal, everyone meets the same fate. You are defined by your character, not your achievements.
Reminders like this have been around for centuries, they are a part of the ancient practice of reflection on mortality, and have been used throughout history by philosophers, warriors, priests, and so on.
This may sound like an awful idea. I mean, who wants to think about such a depressing thing? I know I didn’t back then; I would always avoid this topic when talking with friends or even when my mind started to wander at night before bed.
But instead of being fearful and avoiding this topic, what if you did the opposite? What if you embraced it, and upon reflection, you realize the fact that this may be a simple key to living life to the fullest? This is ultimately a tool that can create priority, perspective, and meaning. Your time, whether 15 years or 100 years, is a gift that must not be wasted.
I remember saying to Jay the other day during one of our conversations, “everything I’ve ever wanted to do in my life, as a job, I’ve either done or am currently doing it”—and I’m only 20. I believe that using this philosophy has helped me achieve this, I don’t know how long I’ve got, so I am going to seize every opportunity I can and enjoy every moment—hopefully with lots of laughs along the way.
So, the lesson to be learned here? If there is something you are putting off, something that you are hesitant to start, lacking a sense of purpose, or feeling sorry for yourself, know this: there are countless people who are no longer living, that would probably give just about anything to trade places with you! Pick yourself up, find meaning, and absolutely crush every day!
I will leave you with a little portion of one of my favourite poems:
“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home”