Back in high school, I had to write a paper on what it meant to live deliberately. I wrote about staying home, watching television (probably recorded episodes of Friends on my VHS tapes) and eating chocolate. I did not do well on this paper because according to the teacher, by doing something I enjoyed or by doing something I do frequently, I was not actually living deliberately. Twenty years have passed since that paper and I will still argue that by doing nothing or by doing something I do a lot, I was indeed living my life deliberately.
Thoreau says that living deliberately means living each moment in order to experience what it’s like to be alive. You have to live life to the fullest and experience what it means to truly live. There are many different ways to go about this. I could go on a hike to the highest mountain. I could see the world from a new perspective and breathe in the smog ridden air of Los Angeles while craving margaritas and nachos as my reward. Hiking would be living deliberately. I could go on one and not even post pictures on Instagram.
Hiking makes me fall down a lot. Walking in a straight line is tough for me on a normal day, add in rocks and a cliff and I’m asking you why you want me to die? In my book, hiking is not living deliberately. Hiking is a life or death sport. I am not going to be getting in touch with my feelings or emotions when I’m struggling to stand up.
Okay, maybe I could have gone camping. Camping would be getting in touch with nature, listening to yourself without distractions, but camping involves bugs. It involves dirt. It involves not showering for long periods of time and also having a sense of direction which I do not have. Camping would also make me question why you want to kill me?
Camping is not going to help me get in touch with anything except maybe awakening my long held dream of eating s’mores at every meal and also camp songs are fun. Other than that, there will be no living deliberately only tears of sadness when I realize that there are no fancy bathrooms in the woods…..nor will Anna Kendrick or Meryl Streep be there to keep me entertained while singing show tunes…..into the woods. No.
Maybe I could have also driven around Los Angeles and admired different parts of the city while learning about where I come from. I could have seen downtown and other parts of the valley. I could have driven somewhere….like Diddy Reese or….no, it would have been Diddy Reese.
And let’s go for the problem with this?
This was before GPS or cell phones. I did not have my Nokia Brick Red phone until college. If I had done that, I’d still be driving around the city….crying, hungry and alone.
So here’s thing….
Living Deliberately does not have to be adventurous. It does not mean putting your life in danger. It can mean staying put. It could mean saying that you’ve worked hard all week and want that day. Embracing that day, that part is living how you want to live. Taking a nap, writing about random stuff, checking Facebook twenty-seven times while secretly mocking the posts of your friends and family….is living. Do nothing is living deliberately because even nothing is something.
When your phone dies, you plug it in and recharge it. From the outside, it doesn’t look like it’s doing anything. It’s just some wire, plug thing stuck to your phone, but it is doing something. It’s recharging. Doing nothing recharges your life. Binge watching television shows that you’ve fallen behind on, snacking on yummy items of food that you don’t eat during the week, this is all living how you want to live. Deciding to spend the day in your pajamas and not be stressed out is living.
Another part of Thoreau’s theory of living deliberately is that you should live a simple life, study nature and how you fit into the world. There should be no distractions. In 1994, 1995, that was probably easier but even then life was not simple. Eleventh grade came with stressors. SAT’s, colleges, finals, crushes who had no idea of my actual existence on this planet and lived up to the very definition of a “crush” as in they crushed you. High school has issues and it would have been nearly impossible to keep a teenager from thinking about those things.
Adulthood also has its stressors, more so because now you’ve got things like employment and money thrown in. Life definitely becomes more complicated and as we have more and more technology to distract us from the truths of ourselves, the simplicity of just sitting down in front of the television and escaping for thirty minutes to an hour, helps us achieve that simplicity.
How you fit into the world and how you relate could be posting about the latest episode of Scandal. We also live in a world where it’s not always easy to relate to others, where people might have problems at jobs, school or with family, friends, relationships and that day, that moment where we say that we are not wearing pants and relaxing all day helps us think, work through how we relate to others and how we fit in the world. If I’m commuting with nature, I’m thinking about all the things that will kill me. Spiders will eat me alive. I will fall. Somewhere. It will hurt. I will ugly cry. It will not be cute.
So therefore by sitting, by connecting with yourself, by comforting yourself with a food you enjoy…..how is that not living deliberately as thinking about the week ahead and how you will relate and handle situations, that’s living. That’s taking your life into your own hands and figuring out where you belong in the most important parts of your life.
Another thing which makes my version of living deliberately work is this: in education you learn the importance of making connections in literature and also connections to what you see on television. By making a text (or TV) to self-connection, you are relating and you are using the images on a screen or the words on a page to help you gain an understanding into your authentic self. You can take a character from a television show or from a book and relate to them, question what you would do in that situation. What would your world look like through the eyes of a fictional character? Text to self connections.
By spending the day doing nothing or by watching television, we are still at the same time taking care of ourselves which will help in making positive choices. If living deliberately is also living authentically then one could argue that it would be more authentic of me to binge watch television than it would be to go on a long walk and collect my thoughts. It’s more authentic for me to read an entire book in a day then it is to go hike up a mountain and admire the view.
Finally, living deliberately also means seeking enjoyment, loving what you do or what you’re doing. Working with students, writing, watching a show I love, reading an entire book in a day and feeling that pain when it’s over. It’s stuff I enjoy, it’s authentic so, therefore, it’s living and accepting what I love as true to myself.
My paper was authentically me in eleventh grade and would still be authentically me twenty years later. If living deliberately is living the life you choose, then I am indeed living deliberately.