A writer friend asked that I read the short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway. Much of his work has spoken to me in the past. I studied For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms as a high school student and later, in college I read The Sun Also Rises. More than 1o years have passed since I’ve read his work, but while dissecting his shorter fiction, I felt like as if I was receiving advice from a long, lost friend.
Reading this particular work at this time in my life is no coincidence. In the last few months, I’ve thought so much about the word regret. Some questions that litter my mind: Am I fulfilled with my current identity? Ten years from now, will I have regrets about not taking a particular path? What if it is too late to pursue or work toward my goals? Then what?
I’ve witnessed at least two people who passed before they could fulfill their dreams. One person I am at liberty to discuss, the other I cannot. My father, as much as I dislike writing these words, had many unfulfilled dreams and goals. There were some external factors that played a part but there were pieces of him that contributed to stopping short of pursuing his goals. And then cancer came and it was too late.
I am certain that this story is not unique to my father. It happens everyday to someone somewhere. In everyday conversations between friends, spouses, strangers even, I hear the following words in stereo, “When this happens, then I can pursue _______,” “Now is not the time, I’ll have an opportunity later,” or “I can’t do this right now. I’ll have to wait a few years.” I’ve uttered the same words in different situations. Reading these words by Hemingway stirred an urgency inside of me.
Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well. Well, he would not have to fail at trying to write them either. Maybe you could never write them, and that was why you put them off and delayed the starting. Well he would never know, now.
The main character is a writer, but is now dying in the middle of the Africa and taking inventory of his life. He recounts all his experiences and all the stories that he carried with him, but never wrote down. Why? In his mind, his words were never good enough. He kept talking about writing, but he never wrote. Ultimately, he wasted his talent because he procrastinated too long. When does he realize this? When it was too late.
Although Hemingway’s character was a writer, the theme of this short story can apply to anyone. All of us are waiting for that moment when the time is right or when the house is quiet or when the kids go to bed or when the kids are older or when we are more financially more stable or maybe next week or month or year.
Whatever you are putting off, do it now. Pursue it. Now. Don’t wait. Sometimes it becomes too late.