One of my favorite comedic YouTubers released a video last week titled, "I Really Haven't Been Living." In it, EJ of EJspeaks talks about a recent visit to Los Angeles, where she experienced a funny, but eye-opening interaction when she and others dined at a restaurant serving a few dishes she's never tried or even heard of.
From that encounter, she realized that up until that point she really hadn't lived. As in what I would call "Oscar Wilde-lived." See quote below to understand what I mean.
"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all." -- Oscar Wilde
EJ goes on to say that she's a country girl at heart, born and raised in Arkansas, and her life's experiences have been limited to much of the American South. To be fair, she doesn't beat herself up about this or put herself down in anyway.
She simply acknowledges that she wishes she had done more and seen more by this point in her life, which is a common perspective I think most human beings feel whenever they take stock or as they get older. I appreciate EJ sharing what she views as a limitation of her life's experience and allows us to relate to that shared sentiment.
But then I thought: Is that truly my experience? Do I, in fact, share that sentiment?
Previously on my blog, I've written about some of the common prejudices people have about being well-traveled, as well as my own tales about some of the adventures I've enjoyed in recent years. I've met a few people who seem to think I'm well-traveled, but I know far more who would look down on me or judge me for not visiting more countries around the world.
Over time, I've dissected both perspectives and ultimately reached the conclusion that ... comparison is the thief of joy.
I respect EJ for wanting to tick off a few more boxes on her bucket list, but at the end of the day, I hope she doesn't view herself or her life any less fulfilling or worthy of respect because she hasn't eaten octopus or jetted off to Bali on a moment's notice.
I recently blogged about revisiting the goals I set 20 years ago and what it looks like to reflect on where I am now. And my take-away was that I've lived a pretty damn interesting life and there's nothing about it that makes me feel ashamed.
Yes, I follow naked & proud bohemian trekkers like @silkyrontheroad and my recent hostel connection & fellow busy bee @jlynnberg_ as they live their best lives visiting amazing places and soaking up cultural experiences I'd eagerly enjoy. I mean it when I say that I sincerely wish them well, and I'm living vicariously through them.
But the truth is, I love my life and I wouldn't trade mine for theirs at all.
I wouldn't say that my life has been full of nonstop fascinating adventures that could one day fill a memoir or three, but I can say that if I go tomorrow, I will go knowing that I was able to embrace life on my own terms and yes, I've truly lived. Oscar Wilde-lived.
Sure, I could lament about how I haven't traveled to X, Y or Z or learned to speak any language fluently other than my mother tongue. But then I remember that by the age of 45, I have ...
Of course, I could go on, but the point is most of the items on this list aren't on most people's bucket list, and the majority of them took place in the city where I was living at the time. But more importantly, these experiences have all made my life richer and more full in ways that I will always treasure.
These are experiences I've either dreamed of having as a kid or never even considered them possible for a lanky, oddball egghead from the Midwest who was supposed to grow up and get "proper job" and live a normal life. I'll let you decide what normal means.
Some might view my life as fairly normal, but I can certainly say it's been more of a roller coaster than a Sunday stroll through the park. And although I've yet to do all the things I want to, I don't believe for a moment that I haven't lived because I haven't had my passport stamped 30+ times.
When it has been stamped, I've found that it's the little micro-moments that I have stayed with me the most. Moments that, honestly, I don't think most people would appreciate the way I have. Moments such as ...
Honestly, I've been blessed with so many small, unforgettable gems that the idea I'm supposed to feel bad because I haven't traveled more makes so little sense to me. Call it seeing the silver lining or counting your blessings or some other cliche, but unlike EJ, I know I've really been living.
And I believe that if you think about it -- truly think about it -- so have you.