I am old enough to freely give advice. Take better care of your teeth. Shower. Eat more fruits and veggies. Compliment three people every day. Manage your own money. Smile. Happiness comes from making other people happy. Give a child a candy.
As I write this, I am 70 years old. I retired in 1999. I live on a hilltop overlooking the Sea of Cortes. Looking west from my front lawn chair I see the sea and the Baja California mountains. They have snow in February. Maybe. The sunsets beyond the mountains are such a rainbow of colors that I never tire of sitting every evening to admire them. The neighborhood children come to my gate in the afternoons hoping for lollipops -- one each. My dog, a Border Collie mix, lives to be asked to do something. Anything. I have a new car, a Nissan Rogue. It literally is prepared to drive itself: GPS navigation, satellite radio, keyless operation, room enough for 4 people and baggage for all. And seats designed for long trips in comfort.
In these 15 years I have toured the country in my motor home, cruised to Alaska, river cruised in Russia and visited Tivoli (I got sick on the first ride).
What did it take to do all of this?
I saved what I could on my IRA and my 401k for 11 years. I made the best available choices from the company-designated mutual funds -- and company 401k mutual funds are optimized to make the company more money that they do the employee.. During this time I had acceptable health and chronic depression.
When I retired disaster happened. My new RV was stolen. I lived in a tent. I estranged from one daughter. The other called me a jerk and told me I would never marry as I had nothing to offer. Heart failure -- I was within hours of death when I collapsed. Diabetes. High Cholesterol. High blood pressure. Atrial Fibrillation. Bad doctors (Jan Jose Samaritan Health Care). Bad financial advice (Jim Loney at UBS, San Jose). Bad landlords on property in Mexico. And yet I was happy. And happy to be alive.
All of my previous life I had been depressed. Depressed until I met Amy in San Jose before retirement. She taught me to be happy -- and not just with her.
All of my life I had had dreams of far away places and things to do. And when you have dreams, other dreams are ignored because there is just so much room in your head for dreams and then no more. And sometimes the space for dreams is crowded out by everyday problems.
I am here to tell you that this can be corrected. Easily. As I said. I am 70 years old. My life is a dream as I watch the evening sunsets. I have recent memories of glaciers and trains crossing the Yukon tundra and through mining tunnels. I have memories of the river islands south of Saint Petersberg. A year ago I was in a pine-frame bed hiding under covers as the fireplace fire warmed the room and I was about to ride in the van to see the Mexican Copper Canyon tram.
What changed my life? My daughter told me to. She told me that I was not going to live forever and that while I could still walk and enjoy travel: "Just do it". My apologies to Nike. In fact, my apologies to Martin Luther King for the title on this article.
So we cruised and flew and I rode in a van to the Mexican Crepe Train. I know it is the Crepe Train because I have a hat that says so. Each year now I live a new dream. This is the great thing about dreams. When you free the space in your head from one dream, a new dream magically takes its place. This year the dream is the Nissan. I have no idea what the dream for next year will be but I know that there will be one.
The Atrial Fib will not go away. The diabetes is on its way out. The high whatevers are gone. Instead of 10 pills, I take five. When you live your dreams, your problems either disappear or are not so important as they were before.
Maybe I am lucky. Maybe I am good. Maybe it does not matter. I have more money now than before my dreams: more good investments than poor. And no dream has been beyond my budget. The dreams have just adjusted my budget to make room for the new priorities. And after 70 years old the IRS requires you to spend money on your dreams.
My children -- as children -- saw most of the USA. One grade school teacher called and asked if Bree had really been to all of the places that they were studying:. Washington D.C. Boston, Plymouth, Florida, Texas, Hawaii, Etc. I assured the teacher that Bree had been to all of these and more and maybe more than one time. Both daughters can count on their fingers the places in the USA that they have not been. Maybe count them on just one hand.
I believe that taking vacations around your home city, state, country, and world (if you can do it) is part of being a good parent. Expanding your child's "sand box". Geography is just part of it. Sharing your values is more important. And they can only see your values when you are together away from every day life.
I met a woman at the Nissan dealership with a dream to see the Grand Canyon and Disneyland with her children. It hurt me. She has lived in Tucson all of her life. She cannot yet be thirty five. Probably only thirty. She could make the Grand Canyon trip on a weekend -- if she started on Friday afternoon. She could make the Disney trip on a four-day weekend. And yet these are still dreams.
I met a woman in the Yuma Social Security office yesterday. She dreamed of a trip to Alaska. She has mobility issues. So does Megan and she went to Alaska and Russia with me. I have limited mobility: Sometimes walking is so painful that 100 meters is a days work. And stairs are always a problem. This just makes for a challenge -- it does not kill the dream.
So I tell you and everyone: take your dream. Plan it out. And Just Do it! This year. There is the old bromide: "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die." This is not a joke. It is not trivial. The more dreams that you live, the more dreams that you will have. The more memories you have of life. The more life you can share with others -- and hopefully with your children. As you take your dying breathyou do not want to say "if I just had done it yesterday". You want to smile and say: "I lived my dream".
The best thing about our brains is that the more experiences that we have, the more space there is for more. More places. More people. More life. More happiness. And happiness is what life is all about.
I am an atheist but: For God's Sake -- Just Do It!