In January of 2002 I was living in New York City. I had just experienced the life changing event of the 9-11 terrorist attack and the aftermath of all the thoughts and emotions that came with it.
I ended up working as a consultant for the company that managed the 9-11 relief effort and as a result worked for over three months in the command center. On most days, we worked 12 hour shifts where we manage the software and communications platform that everyone from the CIA, NYPD, and FBI to the Sanitation Department were using.
Afterwards, I worked in the command center for the Salt Lake City Olympics and then with other government and state agencies throughout the east coast to implement software to manage the threat of possible future emergencies.
As a result, I found myself as a 22-year-old in meetings and doing presentations for people who were 2x-3x times my age.
I found it to be scary, because so few of the people seemed to be full of any life or joy. So many of them complained about their work, their spouse, their pay, and what seemed to be life in general.
As a twenty-two-year-old, this scared the hell out of me.
Here is what I wrote in my journal on 1/28/2002 on the bus heading back to New York City from a business meeting.
Trying to figure out where I want to be when I get older. Maybe more important is who I want to be. The business world scares me. Simply because I go to these meetings and they are full of middle aged people that look lifeless. They go to work every day and talk about and get upset over insignificant issues that really have no bearing on life. I want a job that satisfies me and challenges me and most importantly makes me happy. Because that is what it is all about. That feeling.
-shortline bus to NYC
What I’ve come to realize over the years is that the “life” that is going on at home for so many is just as dreary as the nine to five version that I was seeing.
Behind the scenes is just as much sadness, disappointment, and lack of joy as there is while they are at the office.
So, at what point do we let ourselves actually live our lives? For too many of us we are constantly doing things today for the hope of where it will get us in the future. We grind through the terrible job for the hope of the promotion, we do things to build our resume for the future, we say yes to so many things because of what it might do for us later in life.
We sacrifice, give up, and throw away today for the sake of and the hope of what the future may bring.
We do this for months, years and even decades of our lives. Often getting so far down the path of hoping and waiting that when it is finally all over and we get towards the end, we realize that we were always putting off today for the promise of tomorrow.
What if we flipped our perspective? Can we decide to start living in this moment and doing things for ourselves now, rather than for the promise of great things to come?
In being in New York I learned at a very early age that tomorrow is never promised.
I had initially wanted to work for Morgan Stanley which was on the 65th floor of World Trade Center building #2.
Not being there that day taught me everything I needed to know about life.
Many people outside of the city didn't know that for months after the attack they had lights in place of where the buildings stood, representing what was.
We sometimes forget that life is happening right now. For some reason, we always think about what we need to do in order to “start living the dream” in the future.
The real gift is right in front of us. We know at some point there won't be a tomorrow.
We sometimes just have to remember to live and enjoy today rather than hope for what tomorrow might bring.