“Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think.” – Horace
English class. Sophomore year. I first heard the phrase “Carpe Diem,” which my teacher told us meant, seize the day. The same year Dead Poet’s Society debuted at the movie theater. I recall the pivotal scene where Robin Williams implores his students to look at the glass display cases and really study the faces of previous graduates. He questions whether these individuals lived the lives they wanted. He asks his students to really live their life completely and to make their lives extraordinary.
Through most of our lives, we’ve been asked to live our life to the fullest. We are all well aware that life is short. There is a finite time to live, experience, love and travel through life. But, lately, I’ve pondered the gravity of this phrase. What does it mean to really live your life to the fullest? I’m not certain I know really what it is supposed to feel like. Yesterday, “seizing the day” meant this: exercising in the morning, washing dishes, cleaning our bathrooms, fixing lunch for my husband and daughter, folding laundry, and sharing a dinner out with my family. I didn’t work on my memoir or travel anywhere or do anything that separated this day from the previous two days. I’ve obsessed about living life to the fullest and wondered how do I really do this?
Theoretically, if we thought we were living our life to the fullest, would we really even know it? It has to be evaluated in retrospect. I’ve come to terms that I may not live up to the ideals that William’s character talks about in Dead Poet’s Society. It sounds glorious in theory to make our lives extraordinary, but I am not certain that many of us are destined for that pathway. The absolute truth is that everyday I’m living my life doing wholly ordinary tasks that doesn’t include any real magnificent revelations. Is this living life to the fullest? Probably not in Horace’s eyes.
Is it a life that I am embracing and choosing to live? Yes. And that is what matters to me. I am not certain that it would meet any objective criteria of living an extraordinary life, but it is the life I am purposefully choosing to live.
Do you struggle in defining what it means to live life to the fullest? Do you think it is overused and rendered meaningless? Are you taking steps everyday to live an extraordinary life?
Image by Colin_k
I don’t know that I am living what defines living life to the “fullest”, but I try to make all my moments happy when I can.
I feel like I’m living life to the fullest when I’m appreciating specific moments. Sometimes they’re great moments and sometimes they’re painful moments. I always feel like I’m fulfilling a deeper purpose, even when it’s a mundane day. I think for me it means feeling grateful to be alive.
I think you make a very interesting point that “fullest” really is in the eyes of the beholder. I have no desire to live an “extraordinary” life, if that means the type of life that lands me in a history book…but I do want to lead a content, fulfilling, and peaceful life. In that sense, no, I am not living my life to the fullest right now. I am trying to, but still struggling to use my energy and time in the most productive ways. I’m still prone to some negative thinking, lack of motivation, etc., and I want to overcome that. Also, I’ve found that lately I’ve been questioning what I do for a living, and trying to find ways to reconcile my values, my need for financial security, and my work 100%. Once I achieve that, I think I will have lived my life to my “fullest” 😉
I think any day that you wake up happy with your life is a good day. We all have different perspectives on what “full” means. Even if it involves laundry and dinners with family. 🙂
It’s a lot of pressure to feel like you have to live an extraordinary life. I find fulfillment in traveling and reading and looking at the stars in a desert sky, in whispering in my granddaughters little ear, loving my husband, quilting, cooking and watching my children find their way in life. My mother found it absolutely in being our mother, polishing our little white walking shoes and keeping a spotless house. It’s individual, isn’t it? I think we seize the day when we’re awake to what’s around us and carry a grateful heart. I used to pray, “help me see what I have today that I’m not even aware of to be grateful for, and also, who can use my help?” Both kept me awake to what and who was around me. Great, thought provoking post.
I always liked and kind of hated this phrase. I am the type who wants to ENJOY life, but when I was younger, I got really worked up and fearful about whether I was living life to the fullest. It always comes down to a person’s perception of what a full life is, and so often those people are wrong. We have to create our concept of a full life individually, by ourselves. Perhaps a phrase that relates to me more these days is “live in the moment.” That is quite hard to do, but really rewarding.
I don’t think it should be a struggle to live life to the fullest otherwise no one would. I think it’s just a matter of making each moment matter and live it according to our purpose. And simply being happy with whatever life brings us.
Strangely (or not), I don’t think about living life to the fullest. Perhaps it’s just me, or perhaps it’s growing a little bit older. I simply do it – when I can. It’s become the natural means to great the day – even if what is entailed is writing and researching for 14 hours. Or, it might mean dropping everything to embrace the surprise of a good man in my life (currently cooking in my kitchen!) or, my kid actually wanting to sit with me and show me something he’s working on, or talk about something.
With all that life can throw our way in terms of challenges, I’ve learned that the so-called “ordinary good moments” are never to be taken for granted.
There are those moments and days when I just know that I am living life to the fullest and I carry gratitude in my heart. Lovely post, important questions.
My own sense of how “full” my life was took a nosedive when I had kids. I wanted it to be engrossing, fulfilling, rich, but instead I was happy. And now, a few years later, with two kids and a bit more time to myself, the same life (SAHM) seems really rich, just what I want. Two things happened, I think: more sleep, and a new appreciation of the richness of family. I’m soaking up the experience of being _in_ family, having _time_ for family, being _surrounded_ by family. It’s a blessing. It’s not sexy, but it’s a blessing.
Here’s to a live poets’ society—to wrestling with loss, mortality and whatever angst we cannot dodge toward a collective realization of love and transcendence in the very mundane and ordinary moments that are yet suffused with numinous magic whenever we allow the veil of self to drop away to reveal the fluxing world as mirror of our ultimate Self, same as it ever was, ample in the sort of time all eternal poets, living and dead, reach for so that we all might drink from the moon’s generous chalice.
Visting for the first time via Sits! Great post. I’m always trying to seize the moment. It hasn’t always been that way. Now I’m confident in the decisions I make.
And the question to ask is for what purpose? Why do we strive to live life to the fullest? To what end? :o) Nice to stop in and read your writing. Always love what I read here.
You are right on as usual. I have decided that whatever I decide to do is what my life should be.