And although that’s no big deal when you get to my advanced age (I swear that February 9th comes at least twice a year these days!), I wanted to share something personal with you for my February/born-month postcard.
As you know (because I won’t shut up about it), I live in the Philippines now. In fact, I’ve lived abroad since 2011, mostly in “Developing” nations where life can get a little wild and crazy sometimes.
I also travel a whole lot (last year I took 64 flights (including by charter 3-seat airplane, helicopter, and hot air balloon!) I routinely work 60 hours a week or so, but my job does allow me to work from anywhere there’s Wi-Fi, so I try to take advantage by experiencing as many new and exciting things as I can.
Even my neighbors and the staff in my apartment building know the drill by now. They hear a flurry of activity before dawn, see me march out of my room with a big backpack on, and flag down a trike to the airport for the next adventure into the unknown.
So, what I’m trying to tell you is that I have no idea if I’ll live to 100 years old, will go tomorrow, or some time in between. None of us do.
I also don’t know if my expiration will be due to gentle natural causes, sheer old age, boredom, or something more epically memorable, like an elephant sitting on me or my head exploding from eating too many hot chili peppers.
That being said, I do exercise extreme caution (although it may not look like it) in regard to where I go, what I do, and just about every other detail of my life. I’m intrepid, but by no means reckless.
Still, every time I leave my apartment and head off to swim with sharks, jump out of a plane, join a karate fight camp, or, even more dangerous, go on a date with a Filipina (gasp!), it’s in the back of my mind that one day, I may not come back.
That may sound a tinge dire and macabre, but please understand that it’s not. Quite the opposite; we all think about our mortality from time to time, and especially as we get older (and on our birthday). I actually think that’s healthy, as it reminds me to smile, be more compassionate, and appreciate life a little more each day.
Sappy clichés aside, if one day when I’m 99 years old I don’t return from one of my adventures, my biggest fear is that I leave my family and friends – and the world – in abrupt silence. In my mind, that would cause them to suffer unnecessarily.
I thought about it last year when I was headed off on a trip to the region of Mindanao, which is a little dicey when it comes to Muslim separatists. (They’re known for separating western families from their ransom money and then separating hostages from their heads.) I knew that I was going to a perfectly safe city in that region and wasn’t taking any undue risks, but I still couldn’t help thinking “What if?”
So, on the way out of my apartment in the predawn hour, rushing because I was late for my flight, I tore out a piece of notebook paper, grabbed a pen, and scribbled something down.
Just in case the one-in-a-billion happened, I wanted to leave some clear indication of how I felt, properly say goodbye, and comfort those left behind.
Without time to think, I wrote down everything I needed to say within less than 30 second..
Now, don’t get it twisted - THIS isn’t me SAYING goodbye. Hell no. I plan on throwing punches, talking smack, and causing trouble for a long, long time.
But, since it’s my birthday and I’m feeling irritatingly optimistic, loved, and sentimental (don’t worry, that will all pass by tomorrow), I thought it was the perfect time to share this letter with you.
Only 8 lines and 29 words, I still leave it on the counter in my apartment every time I turn off the lights and shut the door, like my message in a bottle cast off to sea.