Monday, October 15, 2012

the 'life is too short' lie, and other concerns

Life is too short.

Fact. Truth. Cliche.


Life is too short to put up with your bullshit. Life is too short not to enjoy every moment of it. Life is too short for a dead-end job. Life is too short not to travel. To read. To bake, to sing, to dance, to cry at weddings, to kiss in the rain, to eat off of the "good" china, to break a few glasses.

So we tell ourselves. So we believe.

But given that logic, life is too short for anything, right? Life is too short to work a job you hate, but life is too short not to travel, so what the hell do you do? Life is too short not to live life to the fullest, get off of your couch, seeing the world, yet life is too short not to spend every waking moment doing what you love, and sometimes, what if 'what you love' is drinking hot spiked cider and watching a Fred and Ginger movie? What if it's crooning 'A Change is Gonna Come' while you roll out pie dough with your favorite apron on?

What if 'what you love to do' at work doesn't pay the bills for 'what you love to do' at home? What if you want to see Paris, London, and Rome, but your dream job pays a Kansas City, Tulsa, Schenectady salary?

What if you believe life is too short not to cherish your family—they're the only ones you've got, after all—but that same family thinks you're nothing? Life is too short to argue, but life is too short to be treated like a doormat? Life is too short not to read. To travel. To dance. To wonder, to dream, to live, to be.

Life is too short for everything I want. I want to read a library's worth of books. I want to travel the world. I want to spend my days making dishes I've never dreamed I could make, desserts I've never dreamed I could bake. I want to see every Hitchcock movie ever made. I want to cook heart, liver, tongue, and kidney. I want to learn wine—really learn wine, know all of its nuances, taste that infamous terroir. I want to dance down Bourbon Street and learn how to make udon noodles in Japan. I want everything, I want it all, I want to see and taste and know and learn everything, everything in this wide, beautiful world; and time is passing me by, and I've done nothing, and tasted nothing, and laughed at nothing, and I sit in this big world of everything and nothing and I grasp at it all and sit and stare at my empty, empty hands.

But I've been living, I realize—living every day, gasping for breath on the crowded subway; walking through the yellowed streets of Boston after dark, wrist crooked in Derrick's elbow; clutching the silver rail of the train; tasting hominy and tender-cooked greens and wild boar and the crispiest, creamiest smashed potatoes you've ever had; peeling, coring, seeding tomatoes for winter, packaging pesto, slow-simmering soups; cupping my hands around a bowl black chicken broth in Chinatown, slurping pillowy, achingly soft noodles like I've never tasted; clamoring to my feet in wild applause as the curtain goes down.

Life is too short. But life will never get any longer.  And maybe life is too short to worry about all the things I'm not doing and start focusing on the things that I am. But maybe life is too short not to worry, to dream; maybe life is too short to be complacent. And maybe—maybe, yes, maybe—I need to stop counting the hours I have left and start focusing on the hour I'm in. And maybe—as many shortcomings as I have, as many things I've failed to do—maybe this hour I'm in is pretty goddamn glorious.


  1. There does seem to be a trend for over using this particular phrase, doesn't there?

    I totally agree with the idea of living in the moment as much as possible. It's in those moments when I let go of the past, stop worrying about the future and just allow myself to be happy with who I am and where I am when I find the most peace and enjoyment.

    Well said, Nicki. I loved this post. (As I love all of your posts.) :)

  2. I had an argument with a friend once about this "life is too short" thing because this said friend thinks I'm wasting my life working too much and spending too much time on the internet. He was like, "Go travel, do this, try that!" All his suggestions aren't possible for me because first, my budget says no; and second, my schedule says no as well. I won't tell you the details but this conversation frustrated me because he was being a d*ck about it.

    P.S. Best post ever. And deep. Like, man, so deep.

  3. This post has such brilliant timing because I've been particularly sick of my Facebook feed being inundated with pithy memes. "Live today like it's your last". Okay so I should spend all of my money to go swim in a water cave in Mexico? Bully! And then tomorrow comes and whoops, I don't have money for food now. Shit.

    There has to be a happy medium. People need to be reminded to "live a little" but sometimes it's just not practical. I made a lot of difficult choices this past year to pursue my dream of writing professionally and my book is just about ready to be scorned by agents all over the world. If I am not able to make a living off of my writing after a certain time frame, then I'll go back to medical coding. That's been real. I think it's a happy medium. I took the chance and pursued my dream--no matter what I can always say that--but need to live (in the mundane food/shelter/health sense, not the sparkling "you gotta LIVE LIFE, baby!" sense.)


    1. I really fucking hate how many typos I make.

    2. NO!!! Don't go back to medical coding!!! Those that scorn your writing would regret it later I am certain.

  4. How do you demonstrate a standing ovation in a comments form? Imagine me, standing in front of my screen, clapping slowly and with intention :) Awesome post, well written (as always) and spot on. Well, I do kinda feel that you have to really adjust your life if you're going to try and follow your dreams. Hubby and I were SKINT man for the first two years of our business, but NOW, NOW baby, it was all worth while. Still don't have enough money to travel the world mind you. Although we talk often of plans to buy an old Combi and head off with the kids on our travels. See a beaten up old combi driving down the yellowed streets of Boston with a couple of would be Hippys and two small boys hanging out the back? Flag us down!

  5. I agree with WeezaFish - Standing O darling.

    I would love to "live life to its fullest" but you know what, like you said, my budget doesn't permit it. My vacations are supplied by a Boston (love), down the shore, weekend in AC type of salary. I'd love to go to Italy, Mexico, France. Hell, I'd love to go to Hawaii but the money isn't there. I'm at a point where I'm working solely to survive. It sucks. It aboslutely sucks. But life is about balance, like Kat said. Find the balance, and I think, just maybe, people can find happiness.

  6. Nicki Nicki NICKI. I've tried to sit down and write a post almost incredibly similar to this numerous times and end up in a screaming match with my inner conscious, who's exhausted and confused and fed up with not knowing what the hell is going on or where or how to begin. As much as I hate what you're feeling, I can't help but feel better there's SOMEBODY who's legitimately struggling with this -- and not in just a "oh, wouldn't it be nice" wistful kind of way.

    And I agree SO HARD with Kat that all this "Live life to the fullest!" and "Live, laugh, love!" babble is ridiculously annoying - though I can't help but be jealous of these people who all they have to do is quote some lame song or Nicholas Sparks book and feel better about life.

    Bottom line, Nicki-P, we're just a couple of gals who experience and crave life so deeply that it drives us mad when left when we realize that any ounce of it goes to waste or is void of meaning.

    I hope your readers see the deeper and tragically beautiful point of this post is that it's not about the money, the time, the travel, or even the balance or the perspective; it's about being so hyper aware of the world's great possibilities and your own limitations that sometimes "living" becomes a senseless agenda of survival until the next opportunity to feel "alive" comes out way.

    Or, maybe, that's just what I got out of it. And I'm embarassed of my excessive use of run-on sentences.

    If anything, I want to thank you for writing this post, as it's just what I needed and articulated so wonderfully. I think I can finally organize my thoughts at my own stab at the topic. :)

    You're amazing.
    Don't forget it.

  7. Nice! It looks like you don't have a Facebook page? I am trying to stalk you.



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