Carpe diem. Seize the day. Fortune favours the brave. You only live once…YOLO.
No matter how you say it, it sounds cheesy – thanks to Hallmark cards, sugary Facebook memes and, lately, a revival of the Dead Poets’ Society mantra in the wake of Robin Williams’ untimely end.
But clichés are clichés for a reason. Anyone who’s ever stared down the grim reaper, or staggered through the awful quagmire of debilitating grief and loss will tell you those trite throwaway lines are now the maxims by which they live.
I know, ‘cause I’m one of them.
The dude in the black hoodie hasn’t come looking for me – yet – but he’s called on and taken enough people precious to me to remove any last vestiges of doubt that life is unpredictable. And short.
Blowing out 50 candles this year helped cement the realisation that hit me like a blow to the head five years ago when my much-loved brother’s heart stopped suddenly and permanently: that tomorrow’s another day, yes, but it may never come.
So today’s the day.
Just a week before my brother died, I took a call from him while I was at work. I was busy. I told him I’d call him back. I never did. And now I can’t. I’d give almost anything to snatch back that moment. To say, sure – how are you? What’s happening? The irony is that I’ll never recall what was so important it couldn’t wait while I had what would turn out to be the last yarn with my big brother.
And that’s the point. You just never know. So I’ve made a quiet little pact with his memory – that, within reason, I’ll make sure I look to the future and respect the past, but live as much as possible in the moment.
I’ve shrugged off so many invisible bonds in the past five years – personal, professional, emotional – and it feels pretty wonderful to be a 50 year old Australian woman in the 21st century.
I look at my mother, and her generational cohort, and I feel a twinge of pity that so many of their lives were, and are, lived with such fear – fear of difference, fear of diversity. Fear of social mores, or more precisely, falling outside those norms. Fear of sex. Of intimacy. Of emotional expression. Fear of religious judgement. Fear of anything beyond a narrow field of social, economic and geographic vision.
They’ll tell you theirs was a better time – a time when morals were clear-cut, when social and gender roles were defined and everyone knew their place. When white was white, black was black, and grey… well, grey wasn’t talked about.
But it’s we who are blessed, we women of our generation, and our daughters whose lives will be even better enhanced through the continued development of the global village. We’re blessed that our world and our changing society allows us to push and re-define boundaries; to explore and feel and give and connect and to think and question.
Our society and our generation has its challenges, but we’re better equipped to meet and overcome them because, for the most part, we’ve managed to shake off the fears of our forebears.
The only real fear I have – apart from spiders and swimming costume fittings – is that I’ll die wondering. I don’t intend to let that happen.
Today’s the day, girls.
Go on out and grab it.