Breadcrumbs

Life. Is it something we experience, share or just pass through? Some people would tell you we are “given” life; its something each one of us have. Others would tell you, you are “blessed” with life; its something granted to you… ingrained inside you. A soul perhaps.

I would say life is a large, collective instance we all pass through. You don’t own a part of it and it’s not a part of you. The only thing you’re granted or blessed with, is the chance to experience it along with everyone else.

I’ve realized this more and more recently. If life was yours, you’d have more control over it; like you do with your arms and legs. But you don’t! No one does. Shit just happens and you have to react and hope for the best. Sometimes its good shit, sometimes its bad shit. But we’ll never know until that moment.

Let me start off by saying this: we’re all lucky sons-a-bitches to be here in the first place. Do you know how many millions and trillions of galaxies and planets there are in the cosmos? Like… a bunch. And all the atoms that make you who you are somehow found themselves here on this planet, this pale blue dot in the midst of The Milky Way, and were able to come together perfectly to bring you a single chance to experience life. That’s like flipping a coin one billion times and having it landing on heads every time.

But truth be told… in 100 years everyone who is alive right now will be dead. Think about that for a minute. It took billions of years for this planet to form, humans have been around for (okay lets not get into a big argument here) arguably thousands to tens of thousands of years, but your presence is a mere 80 or so years? (I’m assuming that’s like an average).

I know… I know… “GET TO THE POINT BRANDON!” I’M TRYING! The point is no matter how big or important you think your life may be, your time here is nothing in the big picture. Its like throwing a rock at a mountain. All the small parts just blend into one big figure.

But it isn’t a bad thing; you just need the right perspective on it. I’m not saying mine is THE RIGHT perspective, because that would be preaching. I’m just sharing how I feel about it all.

So imagine all of us are invited to a big get-together. This party never ends but you aren’t allowed to stay very long. Once you show up, you have a limited time to meet everyone, enjoy the hospitality and then you’ll leave. How long do you have? You don’t know. Some people longer than others; some people will pop in to say hi and leave. Everyone shows up at different times, wearing different things, bearing various gifts. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry… you’ll find people you really dislike and others you’ll want to be with the entire time.

That’s life. You don’t own it. You’re just a guest. So here’s where the cool part starts:

Lets say you find someone at the party and decide to tell them a joke. You make them laugh REALLY hard– so hard they literally cry. Then as you stroll through the house you find picture hanging crooked on the wall… and you fix it. Suddenly, someone spills their drink. You stop to help them clean it up. And when someone just arrives to the party, you give up your chair at the dinner table so they can enjoy their meal without standing.

Some people might think: “Hey! I only have a limited time here… I’m not going to waste my time with all that nonsense. I have things to do and people to see!”. Well that’s the point– your time IS limited. But what ISN’T limited is your story.

See… when you leave the only part of you that remains is the story you left behind– your ‘breadcrumb trail‘ per se. The person you shared your joke with will tell it to others. The picture you fixed will hang straight for others to enjoy. The person you helped clean the floor and the other you gave your chair to… all these people will remember you.

I know all that sounds corny, but I’m just making up examples here.

The point is, its like your entire time spent at the party is relived by the ones you left an impression on. Everyone remembers you. They even share stories of you with people who show up after you’re gone. People you’ve never met feel like they know you and have a sense of what kind of person you were. Even THEY miss you because they never got to meet you.

Everyone leaves a story behind: good or bad. Its a simple truth. So be conscience of your decisions… no one wants to be remembered as an asshole.

Reflecting back on my life, I realized I am very fortunate to have had a great family raise me. There are endless moments, breadcrumbs if you will, that will always stay with me. Stories that’ll be told countless times and still make me laugh, or cry, or remind me to be a better person.

I’ve also met some incredible friends and have had some really fun experiences with truly great people. Every one of them have made an impact on my life. That’s part of how their stories will live on after they’re gone: I’ll share them with others and the cycle continues.

But where do MY breadcrumbs start? I don’t know! I can’t tell you who I’ve impacted. I mean, I could guess but what’s that going to mean? I will say this: the last few months have been a reminder… “hey, limited time here buddy. Start doing something. Now.”

So I have been. I mean… small stuff, but everything starts small, right? Firstly, I try to remember to genuinely smile at people. Even strangers. Like someone who holds a door open for you, or a server at a restaurant. Look ’em in the eyes, smile and thank them.

I’ve been doing little things with my children too. I started teaching Aidan to snap a few weeks ago. The snapping part wasn’t what was important, it was his lack of self esteem when he couldn’t do it at first. I told him he could learn to do anything as long as he tried. Now he’s pro at it (ambidextrous I might add). So 25 years from now, when his kids asks him how he learned to snap, he’s going to say “My dad taught me… he also taught me how to play video games. Lots of video games. Actually he taught me mostly video games… lots and lots of video games. Do you wanna play video games with me?”

I also teach both my kids about space which is one of my personal passions. They’re already curious about it, so I’m just feeding it. They ask an innocent questions like “why is the sun so bright?” I give them the real answer. Yea I simplify it a bit, but I don’t give them a fairy tale response like “because its made out of a lot of light bulbs”. I tell them “because its really big and burns really, really hot. You know its really far away and all the stars in the sky are just like the sun?”. I hope they’ll share my enthusiasm of the universe. Maybe one day they’ll end up being a NASA-space-flight-engineer-scientist-space-explorationist-nuclear-powered-professor-of-robotics-technician. Or like, at least have a telescope in their backyard. Maybe I should buy them those glow-in-the-dark space stickers for their ceilings?

[Note to self: buy glow-in-the-dark space stickers for the kids’ ceilings]

[Note to self: buy one for master bedroom, too]

I know these are little things, but that’s how it starts. Like teaching them good manners, respect for people, kindness to animals (except the chihuahua). Just the other day in the hospital elevator Aidan pressed the floor number for an old man. The man said “thank you” and Aidan said “you’re welcome”. The old man looked at my wife and I and said “such a well mannered and polite young man”. We were so proud.

That’s the kind of character I want to leave with my children.

I try to do be the same way with my beautiful wife. I try to help her realize when she’s overburdening herself and just needs to relax. She works so hard taking care of the kids (me included) that she forgets to take care of herself. I say “try to help her realize” because she’s a woman and women know everything. So it doesn’t do any good. But I try :)

[Note to self: buy extra bandaids; your wife is going to kick your ass for saying that]

I hope this makes sense to someone. If it does, share it with a friend and help them understand it. I don’t know if I’ve done much breadcrumming thus far, so this could help me catch up.

  • Thomas Hansen

    The party that never ends is a phenomenally better way of thinking about my place here. I’m at a crossroads right now about what to do and this reaffirms the path I thought to be right.

    One could pretty easily say I was socially isolated for a while,?wanted to thank you and Chad for talking to me and hosting the Arcadium.

  • Jen sorensen

    You are the best at analogies. I love this!