Through crises of confidence and bouts of depression, I managed to steer myself through the choppy patches into a few sweet spots: writing freelance feature articles on events and literary travel and profiles of artists, chefs and designers for magazines and websites; taking on writing, editing and marketing projects for small businesses and environmental non-profits; volunteering for two theaters, an environmental organization, a homeless shelter, and a group that promotes writing and higher education for teenage girls; entering contests, submitting to literary journals, joining a writer’s workshop, and exchanging critiques with poets abroad; hiking hundreds of miles in local hills, and planning and enjoying writing and cultural journeys to Spain, Ireland, San Francisco, Big Sur, Oregon, Washington and New York state.
Around that time I read about Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse who recounted dying patients’ regrets in a post on her blog, Inspiration and Chai. Ware discovered that her patients’ five most common deathbed regrets were over missed opportunities. They wished they had not worked so hard, had the courage to express their feelings, stayed in touch with friends and let themselves be happier. At the top of the list: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Looking back, they wanted to be proud not of what they accomplished in their lives, but of the way they lived.
Missing from the deathbed regret radar were the kinds of fame-courting feats you usually find on bucket lists: winning the lottery, a starring role on Broadway, the Boston marathon; getting rich, thin, promoted; being the first person on Mars; the only person to climb Everest without a rope. The problem with records is that they beg to be broken, and superlatives like more, better and best never stick.
Grandiose goals like these remind me of the widely reported label on a Batman costume: “Warning: Cape does not enable user to fly.” Of course, we all need our Superman dreams. But if you were on your deathbed looking back, what would put you at peace?
One morning in March 2012, after another round of interviews, job applications and delays, I decided to stop waiting for my ship to come in and put myself to work on building a new company, website and blog: Gold Boat Journeys: Live. Write. Travel. Explore. I’ve filled my little gold boat with hope, heart and hard-won wisdom that I’m eager to share, and I’m packing my still-evolving website with resources to inspire creative journeys of all kinds, both at home and abroad.
I launched my Gold Boat a few weeks before I found the Manifesto, but it exactly sums up what drove me to take the plunge (with a seaworthy vessel, of course)! “Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.” Only one month old, Gold Boat Journeys has filled my sails with hope.
Love to write?
Every month we select at few writers to help us explore what it means to live a life of reflection and intention. Reach out to Helen, our editor at Helen.W@holstee.com to learn more