If you are anything like me, there is a list in your head. The ‘if only’ list. Others might call it a bucket list but that supposes that you are ticking them off from time to time. My bucket list reads more like the index to an atlas than anything else – Mongolia, Argentina, Estonia, Iceland and gets added to every time another friend comes back from a great holiday.
The IO list is a different beast. This is the list that I have been carrying around for YEARS but never really get around to. The thoughts that interrupt me as I am completing a power point presentation at 11pm or setting my alarm for 5am for a meeting in cork the next day. Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do, but if only…
If only I didn’t have to spend so much time writing for an organisation, I would spend more time writing just for me. If only I didn’t have to work late nights and away from home, I would spend more time with friends and keep up to speed on how they are and what is going on in their lives. I would slow down and have fun. I would have time to dance more. If only, I didn’t have to finish this spreadsheet, I would run more and look after my health. If only I didn’t have a mountain of e-mails, I would cook more and mind myself.
If I wasn’t away from home so much, I would volunteer more and give back to my community. If only I didn’t have so few holidays in the year, I would slow down and enjoy my own country more. I would walk beaches in Donegal and take off to Clare on a whim. If only I didn’t have my career to worry about, I would try a million different things, just to see what these were like. I would sell books, I would meet people outside of my own world, I would be part of something creative.
And then someone I love very much got sick. Cancer. And as it started seeping into her and we rushed to do everything we could to stop it’s advances, something was eating away at me too. It was a wakeup call. I am 37 and have only one life. As much as I love mine, as much as I got results and beat targets every year and worked hard, had I ever stopped to think about what it was all about?
Soon after this news, I also found myself without a job for the first time in my life and without a notion of what to do with myself. With a realisation that the expression ‘life is short’ is not simply some cliché, I grabbed that IO list and jumped into the abyss.