Carpe diem, the grandfather of ‘you only live once.’ It used to be the excuse used by binge drinking teenagers before they needed a shorter hashtag. The clichés around this topic are as endless as the excuses not to live it are. While ‘seize the day’ has long been used to justify poor, in-the-moment decisions like face tattoos and unprotected sex, this summer, YOLO will be the war cry exclaimed before many an unfortunate decision in the bike park. You may think that it suggests hucking your meat off some never-before-ventured drop because tomorrow may finally be the zombie apocalypse. Not true (about the meaning, the zombie apocalypse is anyone’s guess).
A poem, written by Quintus Horatius Flaccus during his lifetime of 65BC – 8BC, celebrates the uncertainty of our future and warns against fortunetellers; apparently they were forbidden by the gods. The last line is loosely translated as: “Seize the day, putting as little trust as possible in the future.”
The future, my friends, is much like a Plenty of Fish hook up – it might not show up, and if it does, you might not like the way it looks. Quintus advises us to scale back our long-term hopes to a short time period; this from a man who lived to the (then) ripe old age of 57. But it isn’t so much of a screw-tomorrow-in-favor-of-today kind of message, it is more about living your tomorrow today. It is about making time for friends and bikes no matter how many emails are in your inbox, about not waiting to do tomorrow what you can do today.
I challenge myself to live my life this way. Not every moment is full of fireworks and sunshine. If I died in my sleep last night, my last day on earth would have ended with me eating a giant bag of salt and vinegar potato chips while sitting on a patio furniture display outside of Walmart. Luckily, more often than not, it will have included rides to places where there is no cell reception, coffee breaks with friends and dropping off surprise beers. Surprise beers are the best.
With any luck there will have been something that induced some fear and something that I have conquered. I won’t have made excuses about how much work I have or how crappy weather always is. “Dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas;” while we speak envious time will have already fled.
The concept of living life to its fullest has become as cheesy and commercialized as the ‘Carpe Diem’ shirts of the mid ‘90s. It’s become cliché and is the message behind so many Hollywood movies, that it has lost meaning and has little impact on us. Our society is comfortable with the idea of it being a dismissed ideal; one for college students or those in mid-life crises.
Most of us don’t want to realize that we have the opportunity to control where our lives go. We want to believe that society has dictated a path and now mortgages, long work hours and expectations are keeping us down. We want to believe that people who have adventures, have jobs that they are passionate about or even just ride their bikes every day somehow have a different situation than us, are luckier or crazier than us. We want to believe that it’s not an attainable reality. But really, it is. Sometimes it’s not about changing what you are doing, it’s as simple as changing your perspective.
Go have adventures! Don’t wait until you retire to reach into the cookie jar, live the life you hope you’ll have one day now, or at least be making decisions that build toward it. Lose the excuses; get up early to ride, go night riding, ride in the rain. Sneak out of work if you have to.
Carpe diem doesn’t always have to be about quitting your job and riding off into the sunset of your next adventure, unless you can (and if you can, go now!). Sometimes it’s about knowing what that adventure is and how you are going to make it happen. Know what your goals are, and your priorities and choices in life will be clearer.
Two roads diverge in a yellow wood. Jon Bon Jovi said “It’s my life” and Frankie sang “I did it my way.” I don’t know whether or not this life is one of many rides, a training ride for that big race in the sky, or the only ride I’m going to get. But regardless I’m not going to wait for a better day, a newer bike or an easier trail to embrace the wise words of Mr. Flaccus.
Once you make living your life a priority, every single day can be that bumper sticker that starts out ‘the best day fishing. . .’