Steve Jobs, Christopher Hitchens, Socrates – three passings in late 2011 of swashbuckling performers. When someone goes “before their time” there is often reflection on the meaning of life, and what a well-lived life, purpose-inspired might look like. Some deep meaning is found in a recent post by Bronnie Ware, an Australian singer songwriter who worked for many years in palliative care.
She observed how each patient experienced tremendous emotional growth in the final stages of their life – a mix of denial, fear, anger, remorse, and eventually acceptance. She found that every single patient found their peace before they departed. When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five she found.
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This was the most common regret of all. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
I wish I didn’t work so hard. This came from every male patient that she nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. They deeply regretted spending so much of their lives working.
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deseved.
I wish that I had let myself be happier. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content.
“People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.
You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like, wherever they like with total impunity.
Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.
You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.”