It’s easy to think that celebrities have it all: fame, money, and power. There’s no other path to freedom, right? Well, as four iconic writers show us, two who recently passed away, freedom has less to do with what we have, and more to do with how we choose to live life every day. They’ve experienced illness and death, and in experiencing the immense pain, they learned how to live. Here are their lessons:
Author Joan Didion: Live In The World
“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”
-excerpt from Joan Didion’s commencement speech at the University of California, Riverside, 1975
Former Journalist Anthony Bourdain: Do As Little As Possible In Paris
“Most of us are lucky to see Paris once in a lifetime. Please, make the most of it by doing as little as possible. Walk a little. Get lost a bit. Eat. Catch a breakfast buzz. Have a nap. Try and have sex if you can, just not with a mime. Eat again. Lounge around drinking coffee. Maybe read a book. Drink some wine. Eat. Repeat. See? It’s easy."
-excerpt via Quartz, Anthony Bourdain didn’t just teach us how to travel. He taught us how to live
Author Jordan B Peterson: Make The World A Better Place
“You must determine where you are going, so that you can bargain for yourself, so that you don’t end up resentful, vengeful and cruel. You have to articulate your own principles, so that you can defend yourself against others’ taking inappropriate advantage of you, and so that you are secure and safe while you work and play. You must discipline yourself carefully. You must keep the promises you make to yourself, and reward yourself, so that you can trust and motivate yourself. You need to determine how to act toward yourself so that you are most likely to become and to stay a good person. It would be good to make the world a better place.”
- excerpt from 12 Rules For Life
Author Heather Havrilesky: Exist Around Other People Without Proving Yourself
“Being what you are looks like this: You enter every room as a calm, neutral observer. You are average. You don’t have an agenda. Your only job is to listen and observe and offer your support. Your only job is to watch and learn and allow room for yourself, even when you don’t say a word, even when you don’t look that good, even when you seem useless. There you are, giving yourself the right to be without running or hiding or dancing. That is grace. It matters.
Doing this — existing around other people without proving yourself — works well because it feels good. It feels good when you’re not trying hard to win people over. It feels good to stand without adornment and know that you are enough. But it also works because good people respond to it. Trustworthy people will accept and embrace your listening and support and your silence. Untrustworthy people will think you’re a fucking weirdo, or believe that you’re not worthy enough because you’re not dancing or running or staying half-hidden and building suspense.”
-excerpt from the column, Ask Polly, How Do I Start Over Now That I Know How Damaged I am? via The Cut
Former Writer Amy Rosenthal: Spend Time With The People You Love
Amy Krouse Rosenthal died on March 13, 2017, 10 days after this essay was published
“I want more time with Jason. I want more time with my children. I want more time sipping martinis at the Green Mill Jazz Club on Thursday nights. But that is not going to happen. I probably have only a few days left being a person on this planet. So why I am doing this?
I am wrapping this up on Valentine’s Day, and the most genuine, non-vase-oriented gift I can hope for is that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.
I’ll leave this intentional empty space below as a way of giving you two the fresh start you deserve.”
-excerpt from Rosenthal’s, You May Want To Marry My Husband, via The New York Times