This scene from Dead Poets Society really hit home for me 25 years ago when the film came out. I had been with Hubby for a couple of years by then, and my life had settled quite nicely into what I thought I wanted at the time. College degree, working in my chosen field, wonderful husband, graduate school. Soon my oldest son would come along and I'd have it all. I didn't know it at the time, but I was about to hit what is known as the "Quarter Life Crisis." It's much like the midlife crisis, except that it happens around 25 when after years of working toward a goal, you've achieved the goal and you start to wonder, "Is this all there is?"
That's where I was when I saw this.
Carpe Diem. Seize the day. All we have is this one life here on earth, and then it will be gone. Poof. At the time, I assumed, believe it or not, that I'd seize the day later, after I raised a child or two, reached the pinnacle of my career, and won some Good Housekeeping awards.
But then a couple of years after my son was born, I met W, the man with whom I had my first affair. I was relatively happy in my marriage, but exhausted from trying to be superwoman. I was envious of my husband and all his free time while I was working and going to school. I went to a Ladies Retreat for my church and I asked some of the older women about how I was feeling, and they told me that that's just the way it would be until my kids were grown. I tried to stay calm, but inside I was screaming, "Are you fucking kidding me?!?" I left the retreat early, thinking that I could depress myself quite well at home; I didn't need their help.
But it all changed with W. I felt alive again. Not only did he fill in some of the sexual voids in my life, but with him in my life, I felt like my life was complete. Nothing else had changed. I was still exhausted. I was still envious of my husband. But I was happy. It felt like my relationship with W was a little corner of my life that was just mine, shared with no one, and it made it possible for me to happily walk through the rest of my life. My relationship with Hubby got better and better. W and I met online and chatted for a few months before meeting, but when it came time to make a decision about meeting him, it was Robin Williams and this scene from Dead Poets Society that came to mind.
Believe it or not, in most areas of my life, I'm not the risk taker I am in my prowling life. I'm a rule follower and law obeyer. I'm the person who stops at a red light on a country road in the middle of the night even though no one is around for miles. Why? Because it's the right thing to do. I work hard, arrive early and stay late, not because anyone tells me to, but because that's what needs to be done and it's the right thing to do. I let my husband get away with far too much irresponsibility in our marriage because I love him and I want him to be happy. It feels like the right thing to do. I could go on and on. Those who know me in most areas of my life would never believe that I'm Kat. Never. Kat takes risks like they are nothing. They woman they know meets her insurance company's qualifications for safe driver every year. She always wears sunscreen and her seat belt (always), she takes medication exactly as it is prescribed, and she gets her annual exam at exactly the same time each year. She thoroughly reads everything - yes, everything - before she signs it and she would never, ever put her own needs ahead of those of her family. Most importantly, she would never cheat on her husband.
Sometimes I start to believe that that's really who I am. When I look back on the night I met Seattle Guy, I wonder how I ever found the nerve to do it. That took some serious lady balls, if you know what I mean. How did I do it?
Carpe Diem. I couldn't not do it. And I haven't regretted it for a second. In fact, now I can't imagine my life without him in it. It all would have been different, though, if I hadn't taken the risk. In the blink of an eye, that opportunity would have been lost forever because I was afraid.
It's easy to see what you may have accomplished in your life, but what about the experiences you never had because you were afraid to take the risk? Those are the ones that can haunt me in the night.
As I've matured, I've become even more committed to not leaving any of my life unlived. I have this quote by Henry David Thoreau posted in my office and I read it every day:
“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.”
My playmates have literally helped me "suck out all the marrow of life," in more ways than one.
This is another favorite:
How are you living today? Are you seizing every day, every moment, or are you just passing time by choosing the safe route?
You know my choice.