My absolute favorite day of all time is July 5, 2013. My 21st birthday. And no, that day is not memorable for the same reason most people’s 21st birthdays are memorable (or, in some cases, unrememberable). It’s my favorite day because I got to spend it with my two favorite people in the entire world (and one very cool Katniss Everdeen lookalike). I’ll never forget the wonderful time we had at the park or how much that time meant to me. How much it still does.
I’ve got a short video clip from that day saved on my computer. Every once in a while, I’ll run across it, usually by accident. When I see it, I feel something. It’s an odd mixture of gratitude and a deep, deep longing to go back, even for a second, to that day. My favorite day.
That video makes me feel something because it reminds me of something that means a lot to me. Something that I’m connected with. Something bigger than myself. It reminds me of a time, of a place, of a feeling that was once very, very real to me.
Most of the time, I’m just going through the motions. I’m following my schedule, checking off the list of things to do, maybe trying to do a little bit of self-improvement along the way if I find some free time. Some nights I look back on my day and realize that I did nothing memorable, nothing out of the ordinary at all. Some days, I’m just on autopilot.
And the truth is that’s not enough. Sure, that might get me a bachelor’s degree. If I jump through enough hoops and follow the right track, I might achieve some of the things that the world values. But if I’m not connecting, if I’m not feeling anything, does it really matter? What good is it to spend four years of my life in school if it doesn’t have any effect on me? What good is all of this stuff if it doesn’t make me feel something?
Yes, sometimes feeling things is unpleasant. No one enjoys pain or loss. So we try to avoid these feelings, and sometimes avoiding the negative feelings leads us to avoid feelings altogether. But the truth is that we all experience sadness and grief and anger and loss. We all feel things that we don’t want to feel whether we admit it or not. But we also all feel the good things sometimes, too. Happiness. Peace. Love. Belongingness. Connection with others. We can’t feel only the good things and expect to never feel the bad. That’s unrealistic. But I can honestly say it’s worth it.
Because without feelings, life would not only be boring, it would be meaningless. You can earn all the degrees you want. You can make all the money in the world. You can earn every award and have all the prestige one person could ever have. But if you’re not connecting, if you’re not finding meaning in what you do, if you’re not feeling something, then it’s not going to amount to anything.
My goal and my challenge to you is simply this: Feel something. Every day. Look at old photographs. Listen to an album that used to mean a lot to you. Listen to it all the way through without skipping the songs that make you feel things you don’t like. Remember the good old days. Or the bad ones. Or think about someone you loved who isn’t there anymore. Whatever you do, don’t just go through the motions. Don’t live your life on autopilot. Feel something.