By: Staci Stallings
There are certain things in life that I really wanted to get right—especially those things I knew I would only have one shot at. I don’t know why exactly, but I’ve always lived my life thinking about what I want to be proud of years from now when my grandchildren ask about my life. That may be why I was so unhappy when our senior high school class chose our motto.
To me, our motto was supposed to say something about who we were, about who we wanted to be, about where we were going. It had to be inspirational, up-lifting, and encouraging. In short, it was important to me to get it right. My own motto was the ultra-up-lifting quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared with what lies inside us.” See? Exceptionally inspirational.
So I was mortified when the motto I had nominated (no, almost 15 years later I don’t remember what that was) went down in flaming defeat to the motto the rest of the class wanted. The eye-raisingly dubious motto: “Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?”
Now I knew why the partiers in our class chose this saying. I knew what it meant to them, and I was horrified that for the next million years or so, my photo would hang just over this audacious maxim in the high school halls.
However, life has a way of pulling you up short just when you think you’ve got it all figured out. Nineteen months after our graduation, one of the kids who had fought the hardest for this very motto was killed in a car accident. By all accounts he was by then an upstanding member of our military—busy pursuing a life he had partied too hardy to see in high school.
When I heard the news, I had to think that yes, life was far too short for that young man to have bored himself. Far too short indeed.
Turns out, though, as hard as I fought against having this saying hang under my photo, it is the perfect saying for the way my life has gone as well. There have been very few boring moments since the 23 of us hung that plaque on that wall. Many, many of those moments I’ve spent frantically trying to keep up, catch up, or get ahead. Very few have been spent sitting around wondering why someone doesn’t come do something for me.
Yes, I’m living, and I’m proud I am. I don’t have time to be bored. Life’s too short. If I forget that, all I have to do is think of my high school class who forced me to understand something about myself that I hadn’t even realized was there. I also think about the young man who fought so hard to give me that gift. I will be forever grateful.
I know I will remember that lesson—even when my grandkids ask. So, I guess that’s one thing I got right.