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12 December 2020
1043 words / 3 minute read

Time and tide wait for no man.

Conrad Schumann

18 year old Conrad Schumann jumps the Berlin Wall, Midnight, 13th August 1961

2016, Sydney. Head hung low and heartbroken, I stepped into the lift of 1970s Bondi apartment complex. Ding rang the lift bell, ‘damn’, I thought to myself, ‘I should have taken the stairs’. In he stepped, an older Italian man, solemn faced. Tears slowly rolled down his cheeks, navigating his age like a dry Australian creek bed. ‘It all goes so quickly’ said the man. ‘Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was chasing my wife down by the beach’. I placed my hand on his shoulder, and then it was over. A fleeting moment that I will never forget. A reminder of the shortness of life.

Whether you think you’re safe because you have cash in your account, stocks in your portfolio, years in your career or more degrees than a thermometer, eternal darkness is waiting, and watching and it will prevail. No matter what you believe, what you earn, what you do, who you love, death is the ultimate equaliser. Don’t be upset though, we are all in it together, and the purpose of this post is not to pull you down into the abyss. Quite the contrary in fact, for if you can embrace this reality, it will provide to you, every ounce of clarity that you ever wished for. Rather than cower behind your 401k, or your safe job, ask yourself what you didn’t achieve, were the clock to stop on your tiny, beautiful existence in exactly 5 minutes from now.

The most common trait of all the independently successful people I know, is that they’re sure they could do it all again. Arguably the most important gift the wealthy bestow upon their children is belief in themselves. While the office plankton endure the daily commute into their respectful jobs, in reality they are, knowingly or unknowingly, playing the losers game. (Captain Sinbad does a beautiful video on this topic). Too often in my life did I drive myself to a decision because it was the right and responsible one. I am not going to tell you to do what you love. Such a statement is entirely redundant these days. I am however suggesting, that in your conscious mind you are not sure what you really love to do. Yet the fate that ultimately awaits both you the reader and I the writer is the cure to this emptiness. Acceptance of the inevitable is the most powerful motivator at our disposal. In reality you know exactly what you want and coming to terms with your mortality is the key to unlocking this awareness.

Is there something - I call it an itch - that you want to do in your life. Something that frequently pervades your thoughts but which you might already have convinced yourself is irresponsible or irrational to pursue. Learn a language? Master a musical instrument? Live abroad? Build a house? jump in to the square jungle? Learn to dance? Write a novel? If not, you are one of the lucky ones. You are welcome to stop reading. But if you do have an itch, then it is time to cut it out with a knife. Before that though, I want to get one thing clear. An itch is something profound, and this is not an excuse to put off your responsibilities permanently. The individualistic, selfish society in which we live almost begs us to pursue our vices. Never before however, has family, sacrifice, community, and individual self-responsibility been so loathed but yet so dearly needed. Nor has short-termism been so adored while patience so hard to find. No, the itch is only one, single thing. It is your responsibility to cut that itch out - not scratch it for god’s sake! - and get on with the rest of your life. After that you will be free to live and do what you wish, with the full confidence that when your time comes, you will face it without contrition.

It is fitting that I write this from my quarantine hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany, waiting for my flight back to Australia. It took until my Jesus birthday and two years in Europe to finally rid myself of my itch. My itch, as irrational as it may sound was to live a while in Europe and learn, really learn, a European language. For years I had flirted with it, but only recently, by passing the C1 Deutsch Zertifikat could I finally close this chapter on my life. I posted the certificate on social media and received a flurry of private messages. How did you do that? Not many Australians do that (well, far more do than you might realise, but that’s not important). Equally you may say ‘That is nothing, I already know 5 languages’. And this is really the crux of it isn’t it. It doesn’t matter how big or small, this is your itch, so don’t be ashamed of it. Embrace it. Get on with it.

“You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.” - Winston Churchill, 1938 after the Munich Agreement

Neville Chamberlain returns from Munich

Neville Chamberlain returns from Munich

Let’s remain impartial for a moment - ignore some historical inaccuracies, even - and take Churchill’s word for it. But instead of war, imagine it is death - for what else is war other than death and suffering. No matter what path in life you chose, you will have death. So will you chose dishonour? Will you suppress each and every dream of yours until your final breath and then lament your cowardice? No, that’s not the path for you, and you know it. You don’t need another year in your profession, another certificate or more money in your bank account. You need courage and you need time, the first of which is your responsibility to muster and the second of which you will never again have more of that than right in this very moment. Chances are you’re already far older than the millions of victims of that war were - of all sides - when their clock timed out. See everything from this point on as a bonus.