Prior to leaving on this journey, after we had moved out of our condo and into our respective parent’s basements, I was relaxing on the couch one evening, eating a pickle. It was a Bick’s Dill Pickle, Polski Ogórki to be specific. Pickles are a near-perfect food and include many distinct styles, each serving their own purpose: Kosher dills to accompany a nice smoked meat sandwich, spicy pickled beans in a ceasar, or cornichons along side your charcuterie board. Then there’s the more exotic varieties: Korean kimchi, sweet pink shallots and the lime pickles of India, or one of my all-time favourites, the tsukemono of Japan. But as much as they’re all fantastic in their own right, when it comes to just sitting back and snacking on a pickle, it’s gotta be the Polski Ogórki.
So why exactly am I going on about pickles?
While I sat there enjoying this sweet-salty snack, it occurred to me that in a few short days, I’d be leaving on this incredible journey. Although I’m sure that certain grocery stores, in a few cities, in the occasional country, might carry these delicious bites; the likelihood of finding them again soon may prove dubious.
So I stopped eating for a second.
That sudden mental observation caused me to consider for a moment that it may be a very, very long time before I’ll ever get this chance again. As for what was left of my snack, I ate it much slower. I savoured every bite, being mindful of every sensation as my tongue reacted to the salt and vinegar; to the dill and garlic and sugar. It was one of the greatest pickles I’d ever eaten. However, it was only a simple pickle, and this wild trip we’ve just begun was our own choice. Finding a deliciously brined cucumber in the outer reaches of Mongolia might not be commonplace, but if the craving ever became too strong, I’m sure we’d be able to figure something out.
Unfortunately, in most aspects of life, it’s often not so simple. Think of something you love to do, to eat; think of a person you love. Now imagine you’re in a position where you know you won’t be able to enjoy that person or thing again for a long time, possibly never again. Think of the effort you would put into those moments as the clock ticked down, enjoying every tiny detail of whatever it is you’re thinking of.
Knowing would be a best-case scenario, a luxury.
Life changes in an instant, clichè as that line is, it’s an unfortunate truth. Everyone reading this can attest to that simple fact. Human beings are essentially the only animal on earth that is truly self-aware, and far as I understand, the only animal who recognizes it’s own mortality. Yet, in a fantastic universal irony, we’re also the only animal who knowingly procrastinates. Just so we’re all on the same page with that last one, I’ll say it again: We’re the only animal on earth who not only knows that it will die, but consciously puts things off until the future. I don’t simply mean putting off that next project or assignment, getting your oil changed, or waiting until your bill is past-due to finally pay it; I mean holding off on living. For Kylee and I, living meant selling most of our possessions in order to see the world; for some, it may be bungee jumping or skydiving for the first time. It may be as simple as talking to that cute girl or boy in class, perhaps it’s asking for a raise or a little extra time off of work to spend with your family.
The simple fact of the matter is: you’re dying. You and I and everyone we know, since the moment we gasped our first breath, are all on a one-way road to the grave. That much is perfectly clear. The forever-unknown factor is that we have no way of knowing when our time is up. So jump out of that plane (responsibly, please), learn that new language, talk to the crush in your class, write that novel, ask for that raise, start that new hobby, take some time off work; and if you’re fortunate enough to be able to, spend some time travelling. Stop hesitating, stop waiting for the right moment, because there never is a “right” time to make a change in your life, and there never will be. Don’t live a life of excuses, of maybes, or could-haves. You’ve already got the pickle.
Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.Jack Kerouac