What if today was your last day on earth?
Some people don’t like flying, it might not be the actual flying that bothers them but more the whole experience. Travelling to the airport, the hassle of checking in bags, going through security and the really interesting safety videos that are shown on the plane. Throw in some solid plane food, a fat lad sitting beside you snoring and you’re all set!
I actually love flying and the whole experience of it. I think I’ve always liked the experience of flying but when I flew back from Antigua after rowing the Atlantic a few years ago, I think that’s when my relationship with flying went to a new level. My flight home took about 10 hours – the plane covered the same distance in ten hours that it took me 85 days to row. I was so excited about the meals, the little bags of peanuts, being able to sleep, the films that would be shown and the chance to read a book that it was probably one of the most enjoyable flights of my life.
But to this day I still really love the whole experience and I think the main reason for this is because it gives me some uninterrupted time to chill out, watch the world go by, write down new ideas, ponder whatever it is that takes my fancy and I suppose in a way take in my surroundings. This morning as I sat at the bus stop in Glasthule village waiting for the bus to take me to the airport, I was struck by a somewhat random thought – What if this was my last day on earth?
It was just before 9am and I had made the few phone calls I needed to. I put my phone away and was sitting there on the wall by the bus stop looking around. I wondered what part of the world the other travellers at the bus stop were going to. I looked across at the church and probably for the first time, marveled at the amazing craftsmanship of the steeples. I added in a rule to my odd little notion, which was that although this might be my last day on the planet, I couldn’t just abandon my plans and do whatever I want. I had to broadly continue with my plans for the day so get my flight to Boston and check into my hotel in advance of the conference I’m attending tomorrow.
But in this game of mine, I still had choices. I could choose what to do along the way, I could choose to say hi and speak to those near me. I could choose to engage with the world around me or not if that was my inclination. I could also choose to switch off from the world, listen to music on my phone, check and send e-mails or anything else that took my fancy.
The bus was now 20 minutes late and one of the women at the bus stop had called a taxi. She asked if anyone wanted to share the cab to the airport so another lady and myself jumped in – choice number one I thought to myself! Both these women were artists and seemed to have a real glow to them, a genuine spark that instantly told me they have probably lived interesting lives up to this point. We all chatted and perhaps it was the mood I was in but it was really cool to hear their stories of where they were from, where they were going and to see the funny coincidences that happened over the next 45 minutes. One lady who lived in San Francisco had written a book about New York where she lived for many years. The other lady (who came to Ireland from the Netherlands for a year, 30 years ago) was going to New York to paint later in the year so immediately enquired as to where she could buy the book.
I confessed to both women that I wasn’t particularly artistic. I quizzed them on what I thought was an odd piece of art I had seen years ago in Barcelona (an orange on a chair) and I did share with them my idea for this article which I started writing while sitting at the bus stop. One of them said to me “so you are a writer – see that’s a form of art” and I said that I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself to be a writer but I did tell them that I wrote a book.
The lady from San Francisco said she wanted to come back to Ireland and spend some time in an artistic retreat working on her craft. I told her that a friend of mine had mentioned such a place to me only a few weeks ago in West Clare and that I would pass on these details to her if she was interested. We all exchanged contact details, paid for the taxi and went on our merry way. One of the ladies to Amsterdam, me to Boston and the other woman back to San Francisco. This is one of the reasons I love travelling – the opportunity to meet random interesting people who you might not ordinarily meet.
However maybe these interesting people are all around us every day of the week but we simply choose not to fully engage and be present. Maybe the next time I get the DART into the city I should say hello to the person beside me and not read e-mails. Maybe I don’t need to be in an airport to make time to write down ideas and think about things of importance. I have the choice as to how I spend my days. I can choose to look up and around me and I can also choose to stick my head in a phone as so many of us do these days and I include myself in this.
I’m sitting on the plane as I write this piece (funny enough the guy sitting beside me is snoring his head off). When I get to Boston I’m going to go for a run and then wonder around the city and see what happens later this evening. With a bit of luck I’ll wake up tomorrow morning in my hotel room and today will not have been my last day on the planet. But it could have been and it definitely will be the last September 15, 2014 I will ever have. So what’s my point here? I’m not trying to suggest I’m going to live every day as if its really my last but maybe this is a note to myself (and to whoever might be reading this) not to loose sight of how precious each and every day is and that we will never get a second chance at any day in our lives…….