My office is located in the heart of Chelsea, streets before the Empire State, and conveniently nestled between a handful of trains. Most mornings, my commute is just shy of 25 minutes and lucky for me, my street happens to be part of the Floral District – so each day – rain or shine – I’m pleasantly bombarded with fragrance and vibrant colors. As my favorite flower, tulips always steal my attention the easiest, and with the sweet preview of Spring in the air, they’re starting to bloom in front of each little shop.
While my building isn’t state-of-the-art or trendy, it does have one thing that’ll always be a plus in my book: it has a history. Well over 100 years old, to be precise. Along with the elaborate ceilings, gold elevator with a crank, and marble floors – there are two characters, who happen to work on my floor, and are nearly as old as the brick-and-mortar itself.
I’m not sure of their names, but they have worked as furriers for over 50 years in the same place. I sincerely can’t tell them apart – side-swept white hair, attire that looks incomplete without a cigar and brandy, and backs that are more horizontal than vertical. When they shuffle past me, they always greet me with a grin, and without fail, offer me a piece of peppermint candy from their never-ending pocket supply. (One of my co-workers once kindly declined the candy and they haven’t spoken to her since, so I always accept my mint.)
A few days ago, I happened to be in the hallway at the same time as one of the endearing older men, and as he usually does, he inquired about my day. I let him know I was doing well and he replied with, “I’ve been doing well for 97 years!” Though I knew they were elderly, I had no idea they were close to claiming a centenarian title so, amazed I said, “Wow, that’s incredible! Congratulations.”
With the most adorable curl of the lips you could ever imagine, he shifted closer to me, extended his hand and opened it to reveal my sugar intake for the day, and asked “You know what the secret is to living a long life, little lady?” I tilted my head, extended my eyes to the curious level, and said, “What’s the secret?”
“It’s simple. Only three things. Occupational therapy. No smoking. And find someone who needs you.”
Sitting back down at my desk, given the task to write about payroll and finances, I found myself distracted by his advice: is that really what it takes to live a healthy, happy, and prosperous life? Though the list seems quite basic – love what you do, love yourself, and love someone else – aren’t those the three sources of the most trouble from the time we’re kids until we’re nearing the end?
I mean, why would I have a blog in the first place or any obstacle to overcome if I had all of those principles in line? To live the good life (that perhaps OneRepublic harmonize about), must we determine the best – maybe not the easiest – way to mark off the only three things on our checklist that matter? To love, to care, and to do?
A new friend who unexpectedly came into my life under some quite interesting circumstances recently put my older neighbor’s words of wisdom into the wisdom of a seasoned New Yorker: “They say we’re all looking for three things in New York: a job, an apartment, and a man – don’t ever look for all of those things at the same time. I’ve done it, you’ll go crazy.” Well, a man would need you (even when we don’t want them to), a job would be your therapy if you’re lucky enough to enjoy what you do each day, and I’m not one who would ever light up on the street, nevertheless in my home.
So maybe the trick to finding the prescription for a life that’s as long-winded as I am is not to go after all that we want in one shot. I’ll always be a believer that things work out as they should and sometimes if you wait out the trials, the rewards at the end of the trouble will turn out to be worth all you endured. And most of the time, the very things that fall into place happen while you’re focusing on something else. While learning to be the best employee or take your career to whatever level you desire, you may find yourself stumbling across a someone who could be a something. Or while you’re weaning yourself off a nasty habit (or man) you should have never picked up, you may stumble right into a hidden passion or talent, that low-and-behold, brings you actual paychecks.
But if we spend every single hour of every single day worrying if we’re doing the right thing, taking care of ourselves to perfection, and loving the person we were meant to fall for – my friend is right, we’ll lose our minds. One breakup, one unexpected job loss or magazine fold, or quitting smoking attempt, at a time.
I’m not sure if I hope to make it to 100 or not – but I do hope to live. Not just exist. Not look back and wonder if I did all that I could to be happy or to experience mistakes and successes alike. Not just gaze forward to tomorrow or look back at yesterday, but take a chance at living in today and all that it could bring.
I will love, I will care, and I will do – but most of all, I’ll be.