And Promises to Keep
One evening a couple of weeks ago, I called my daughter, Michelle, in California. It was one of those calls about catching up with what each of us was doing. Then I went rogue about my drive to organize and fit up my home. I was in overdrive. It isn’t that I used to be lazy and saw the light. I’ve been driven all my life. If you want a picture of my mind, this is it.
It wasn’t long before our chat morphed into a Rogerian counseling session. I was the client expressing how I felt. I went from one example to another illustration of my drive to overhaul my home. Some of my examples of time-consuming tasks and other examples took a couple of minutes.
Initially, I felt like I did after watching Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. I had done two dances with death and successfully led death on the dancefloor of my life. Nevertheless, I didn’t realize how much those two dances changed my Weltanschauung. Others noticed it, but I didn’t. I was having dinner with Mike Schmitt; someone I hadn’t met until that day. After dinner, which consisted of me talking almost all the time, Mike asked me whether I had ever read or seen the Last Lecture. I hadn’t, but he sent me a link to the video. The lecture was 1:16:27 long. It didn’t take Pausch long to wake me up and realize that my clock was ticking, and I was different, in a most positive way, then I was before the dances. I experienced my enlightenment. That is not a hyperbolic statement. I have attended hundreds of lectures at college, graduate school, and post-graduate school. In the last quarter century, I have given hundreds of lectures. Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture changed my life.
Michelle had heard me talk about doing the dances many times. I was repeating again about that transformative experience. Then it hit me. What I was describing to her was doing the dance 2.0. When Pausch did his dance, and when I did mine, we weren’t in our twilight years. I lucked out. Neither of my dances resulted in my death fifteen years ago. I’ll be eighty in January. I can hear my clock ticking much louder than it was when I was younger.
After finishing talking with Michelle, I went to the Social Securities website to calculate what they consider my life expectancy to be. I have done this before. It takes less than two seconds. Social Security’s actuarial tables say that, on average, I have 9.1 years to go and will reach 88.5 before I go belly up. That statistic is sobering, but Social Security isn’t guaranteeing that I will reach that magic number.
In the past six months, I have dropped off four loads of stuff that I didn’t need in my home at a local Goodwill store. Even more impressive was how much junk has been thrown away in the garbage.
After ending my call with Michelle, I returned to teaching and writing. Finally, I realized that it was late in the evening. I took Ginger out for a walk. It was a time for me to ponder the things that swirled inside my head. I recalled memorizing a poem I memorized in high school decades ago by Robert Frost.
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
I went to sleep that night with the last stanza going over and over in my mind. I do have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.