I live my life sincerely terrified of getting to age 90 and wondering why I wasted my time on Earth.
There, that’s it. That’s my end game. Alli’s life’s spoiler, laid out there at the top of the page.
This is at the heart of all of my decision-making. If you want to get to know me and my motivations, there is nothing deeper or more complicated informing how I live. Being on my deathbed and looking back and wondering why I squandered my time, why I was petty, why didn’t I do more for myself and others, is the scariest feeling I can imagine.
So, working backwards, I tend to be a yes person.
Managing my urge to say yes with my inherent laziness can be challenging. I am exquisitely aware of the charms and comforts of my bed. I like my pillows propped just so. Recently, I took up TikTok like a good elder millennial curious about how younger generations waste time. I can fritter away entire hours of my life (the same one I’m so concerned about living to its fullest) on that app, leg swung over whatever edge is nearest — the couch, the bed, the precipice of self-loathing.
On the other hand, I live like someone throwing things at a wall and seeing what sticks. That thing that I throw? Tends to be myself. If I have a goal in mind, I commit to it. I may not be fast, but I am determined. I push, I fall, I cry, I learn, I keep going, I get better, repeat. If something isn’t working, I fix it. Life’s too short not to.
When opportunities come up, I push myself to say yes, even when the siren song of bed lulls me nearer.
Now: how the hell to be a yes person in the middle of a global pandemic while transmission rates are up in Alaska and I have an underlying condition?
Right, yeah, that’s a tricky one for me, too.
Like anyone with a life philosophy that’s worth clinging to, if only because it informs most of my life choices and I’m reticent to change or consider another path, I’m thinking a lot these days about how grateful I am that I’ve had a yes orientation for so much of my life. I have so many memories of places I’ve been and people I‘ve spent time with, and these are sustaining me.
Last year I sat on a hot beach in Massachusetts on July 1 with my sister. I remember each day bracketing that day was stressful — a 50th-anniversary alumni event I’d helped bottom line before, and then a week of in-person meetings that felt high-stakes to me.
But saying yes to the time with my sister felt important. We live on opposite sides of the country and rarely get to hang out. We showed up with a full cooler, trashy magazines and a pile of spray-on sunscreen. We lay out on our towels and ate chips, we dove in the water, we walked during low tide to a nearby island, we let waves hit us as we talked and stared out at the horizon. The sun worked its way through the rare, perfect New England blue sky. Before we knew it it was 5 p.m. and time to go home.
In 2018, I met my best friend in the desert, even though I barely had the days off and I was using airline miles I really should have saved for other travel. The trip required lost sleep on either end, and I worked on the red-eye flight south. We drove from the Las Vegas airport to the desert for a couple of nights in Death Valley National Park. I remember being absolutely awe-struck by the vastness and aridity of that enormous landscape, loving the sand in my hair even as I was a little scared at the ferocity of the wind gusts that picked up during a hike. Wearing shorts and tucking my tank top up into my sports bra in February while exploring narrow, high-walled canyons? Unbeatable.
Evenings with friends at an outdoor eatery. A quick overnight backpack into Sedona. Running along the road in Chaco Canyon. Classic ski trails groomed into perfect corduroy in Montana. A boat trip that ... well, didn’t stay afloat, but resulted in strengthened relationships with friends. I feel so lucky and grateful to have said yes when I did.
I know I will again. I know there are smaller things to say yes to right now, even if every yes is more calculated and frankly limited due to logistical unknowns and my need to substantially mitigate, if not outright avoid, risk. I can still strive to build, expand and deepen my life, even if it’s not with the same kind of wide net that I would cast before.
When the time comes I’ll be ready, probably, to say yes to a flight out of here, just to experience that exciting contrast from everything I see every day.
But right now I’m just trying to enjoy some of the presence of it all, while also being grateful I’ve packed in so many memories. I’m not 90 but I’m still pretty content with where I’ve made it in life so far. I’m grateful to have a minute to reflect on some of the good experiences I’ve been fortunate to have, and to imagine how those might inform my life moving forward.
Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.
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