I stopped writing my bucket list and started living it.
For 13 years, I’ve witnessed the ultimate paradox: people my age taking on huge outdoor challenges because they have cancer.
<p>Think about that; twenty- and thirty-somethings 300 feet up on a vertical rock face or getting pounded in the ocean break or charging the rapids in a whitewater kayak because their doctor gave them a life-threatening diagnosis. There’s a valuable lesson in there for all of us that I think I finally learned in 2013.</p><p>After working with young adults with cancer for the better part of my life (and losing too many friends to it), you would think I would have understood the value of living by now. But for some reason, it only really crystalized this past year. I attribute the timing to a conversation I had with a long-time friend after her doctors notified her that she was out of treatment options. I stopped by the hospital to say my final goodbyes and it was there, in her stale hospital room over the course of a frank conversation about dying young, that I fully realized she was no different than me. The only reason she was planning her final days and I wasn’t was just plain luck. And while I listened to her talk about regrets and things she had always wanted to do but now would not have the chance to, I started to evaluate my life. In doing so, my focus shifted from what I was going to someday lose to what I still had.</p><p>Life soon took on a whole new sense of urgency. I decided not to wait for a diagnosis, but to give myself one—I diagnosed myself with “mortality.” I stopped writing my bucket list and started living it. I stopped talking about what I was going to do in 2, 10, 20 years, and started doing the things I wanted to do right now. </p><p>As a result, I have come to know a happiness that I haven’t known since my childhood. I’ve discarded any sense of self-imposed burden and unnecessary responsibility, and stopped wasting energy worrying about shit that really doesn’t matter. I don’t view this approach to life as an opportunity, but rather a responsibility—one that every healthy human has. Leave nothing undone or unsaid. There are no excuses.</p><p><a href="http://www.good.is/good-100"></a></p><p class="shortcode-media shortcode-media-rebelmouse-image"><a href="http://www.good.is/good-100"> <img class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7a2758411c9522e1c17a0470c3d506dc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" id="0690d" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTkxOTY0NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzI4NDQ2NH0.RC11bC0tklDP0lxBHVRYBsfY4VKQi00HZ8z6B_Gg2Is/img.jpg?width=980"/> <small class="image-media media-caption" placeholder="add caption..."></small> <small class="image-media media-photo-credit" placeholder="add photo credit..."></small> </a></p><p></p><p><em>This piece is part of a series sponsored by The GAP in which members of the 2013 GOOD 100 share important lessons they learned this past calendar year. <a href="http://www.goodmagazine.com/">Subscribe today to GOOD Magazine</a> and receive the 2014 GOOD 100 edition this coming Spring.</em></p>
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