Lately, my personal quest to stack memories seems to be paying off. Scheduled experiences this year have been notable and surely memorable, but so too have the family cookouts, early morning plunges into the pool and evenings throwing axes or on a lake with friends. These are things we ought to do more often, we tell ourselves, and then we never seem to do them very often at all. Best to put it on the calendar. Or forget the calendar altogether and just do it now.
Our perspective on what ought to be done changes over time. Some people rise up to become far more important investments in our time than others. Likewise, some activities do the same. Lately I’ve had everything from pickle ball to scuba diving dangled in front of me as things we ought to do. It all sounds fun. Find me the time. Take, for example, hiking. I’m still trying to get in more hiking time. I’m not like some other friends that prioritize it every weekend, with a nod to them for making it so. No, I’m an acknowledged casual hiker chipping away at a list of peaks I’d like to hike in the near future. When it isn’t scheduled, it simply gets pushed down the stack.
And what of that stack? Life is full of trade-offs, and each yes is a no to something else. In the end there will be far more “no’s” than “yes’s”, so we must choose wisely. Living an active and meaningful life is taking those most important “ought to do’s” and prioritizing them immediately. Sometimes urgency matters a great deal more than at other times, when we play the long game. Some experiences simply won’t be around next time; we may never pass this way again. They say that everything has its time. At least until we’re out of it.
There are two lenses with which to determine what to choose: Our fitness and how meaningful the experience is. Regarding fitness: will we be able to do this in five or ten or twenty years, or is this one of those things we ought to do now? If you want to run a marathon or hike the Appalachian Trail, you’re better off doing it sooner than later. But there also has to be meaning to what we do. We aren’t nihilists, we’ve got a soul that speaks to us in the quiet moments, looking for something more than a good time.
Contemplation and reflection have a place in our lives, which is why writing is another “ought to do” that I’ve managed to do every day for almost five years now. Clicking publish and sending these blog posts out into the wild, where everyone or nobody will read them, is important for me. The goal has never been to become a wildly successful blogger (thank goodness), but to become a better writer. If there’s an obvious side benefit, I get to communicate regularly with people invested in what I might have to say. Thanks for that. It also prompts me to seek out more experiences, that the writing isn’t just a repository of philosophy notes and collected poetry.
There are a lifetime of experiences waiting for us, should we find the time to have them. Is it audacious to expect more than we’ve currently got? Clearly—but who else is going to advocate for such experiences? We must each determine who we want to be and set out to go be it. Adding more “ought to do’s” to our days is a lifetime mission. This isn’t bucket list fare, it’s setting out every day to raise the bar on what we experience. Accumulated, this makes for a more exceptional life than we might have otherwise.