The most memorable person I ever met was my cousin by marriage, Roger Alan Weinstein. Roger never had much money, was never elected to public office, never won a major award, never appeared on People magazine or reality TV and never had any children (a mark of success in our society). And he died at a relatively young age, before his 50th birthday. But in spite of all that, Roger Alan Weinstein got more out of his life than do most people who live to be 100. Roger was a true Renaissance man who used his considerable talents to make his world a better place. He was an active member of Gay Spirit Visions, composed music and poetry, and played the piano and the bassoon for various musical groups in the Atlanta area. He enjoyed the company of his family, his lovers, his friends, and the community around him. In short, Roger lived life to the fullest.
Jesse's Journal: Living Life to the Fullest
The life of Roger Alan Weinstein, along with the lives of many other gay men whose lives were cut short by AIDS, remind us that a life's quality is more important than its duration. It also reminds us that most people today still live lives of quiet desperation: they get up in the morning, go to work for most of the day, eat bad food, watch bad TV and go to bed. It is no surprise that Americans are among the most overworked and overweight people in the world; and that most of our existence revolves around our office cubicles and TV sets. The folks in "The Office" (on TV and often in real life) do a lot of things, but they do not live their lives to the fullest.
43things.com is a Web site "where you can write down your goals, get inspired by others, and share your own progress." In it I found a list of "Top 15 goals" tagged to "live life to the fullest": 1) To live instead of exist; 2) Live in the moment; 3) Go to Hawaii [!]; 4) Live life to the fullest [duh!]; 5) Earn more money; 6) Live without fear; 7) Make more art; 8) Become a hippie; 9) Be a succulent wild woman [!!]; 10) Talk to him; 11) Sing and dance; 12) Psychology [?]; 13) Have a better job; 14) Discover my purpose in life; and 15) Sing professionally for a living. One person wrote: "I don't want to look back on my own life and see all the things I didn't do. . .I want to live life for the moment, and take advantage of every possible event in my life. . .I have to stop letting life pass me by, and start living it!" Another one wrote: "The main thing about living life to the fullest is being aware. Being present. Using your senses. Appreciate the little things. I bought a new brand of laundry detergent that smells like roses. My fabric softener does too, so now doing laundry is a sensual experience. When I pull the clothes out of the dryer, they feel so soft and smell so good. When I'm washing multiple loads, my whole house smells like roses. When I get a new bath towel from the closet, I'm surrounded by roses." Anyone who can achieve happiness from washing clothes certainly lives life to the fullest."
Peter Foss, writing in mynippon.com, has his own ideas about how to live life to the fullest: 1) "Never take anything for granted. Savor every bite of a meal, enjoy what you have, and live each day as if it is your first day of your life. . . . 2) "Do not let the child inside you disappear or die. Keep your curiosity alive by being inquisitive and open-minded. No one every regretted on their death bed what they did; they definitely regretted what they did not do. . . .3) "Change a little every day. That way you will never get stuck. See what is happening around you, and rather than feeling threatened or getting suspicious, embrace change. . . You will never get old that way."
For those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, coming out is an important ingredient in the recipe that would help us live life to the fullest. How can we enjoy and appreciate life when we are living a lie? Politicians like Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) or Rep. Mark Foley (R-Florida) might have accomplished things during their time in Congress, but their refusal to be honest about themselves - to themselves and to others - eventually led to their downfall. (Craig vehemently denies that he's gay; Foley has since come out.) Actor Neil Patrick Harris ("Doogie Howser, M.D.") realized the need for honesty when he ended all gossip about his private his life and finally admitted what we already knew: "It seems there is speculation and interest in my private life and relationships. So, rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me, I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love." Harris has a productive career, a loving partner and the affection of his friends and his colleagues. He stars in a hit TV series ("How I Met Your Mother") and has hosted the Tonys and the Emmys. And he is out. What more can a man want.
Of course we can't all be great actors, musicians, athletes, politicians or philosophers. But we are all good at something. To really live life to the fullest, we must live up to our potential and make use of our talents. As Foss put it: "If you do not fulfill your own role in the universe, one day you will regret it. Do not let routine and urgency steal your life. Perhaps an un-lived life is not an oxymoron. Let that un-lived life not be yours." Finally, by living your life to the fullest, you also change the lives of those around you and help them live their lives to the fullest, too.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and gay activist who lives in South Florida with his partner and tries to live life to the fullest. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.