Fill Your Crate
By: Kim Evenson
3 years ago
Since Jan. 1, 2015, I’ve been interviewing one person each day about the meaning of life. Mostly total strangers. The Meaning of Life Project is my way of sharing what I've learned.
Working at Legacy.com, a company dedicated to memorials and obituaries, I’m touched by death in some small way each day. It’s not what I expected. Rather than making me feel sad, the work has made me more grateful for each passing day. I hug my kids a little tighter, am a little better at making time for friends, and understand the need to value wisdom in a different way.
In that spirit, I set out to better understand the meaning of life — and to build our collective wisdom — by conducting one "Meaning of Life" interview each day. I focused the interviews around life's big questions: What advice would you give to a baby? What would you do differently if you could go back? And most importantly, what is the meaning of life?
This month, the answers seemed to center on an awareness of how fleeting our time is. There was palpable sense of urgency in the responses I got, a drive to fully experience the journey. A colleague at work shared this excerpt from Umberto Colangelo’s obituary, and I think it perfectly captures the essence of my interviews:
…in his own words, here is what Bert wants you to know: “You have often heard people say that they are‘waiting for their ship to come in.’ I believe that everyone’s ship comes in at exactly the same time… and that is the moment we are born. Our ship arrives with a cargo area that holds a large, empty crate and from our very first cry, everything goes into that crate — everything. The first and last words we will speak; every breath we will ever take; every heart we will ever break. Every thought, every word, every deed… all our sunshine, rain, suffering, and pain. Every opportunity, experience, success, and failure. Every relationship we will ever share. We spend our entire life filling that crate until one day our ship arrives for us again. Hopefully, our final journey will be over calm seas helped along by a slight breeze… and then we set sail, never to be seen or heard from again. But there is one thing we leave behind. The crate. The crate filled with everything we ever did, said, or felt in our lives. This is the priceless treasure that we leave on the shore for others to find and by which to remember us or judge us. As you read this, my ship has set sail for my final journey… so I bid you this: As you live your life and make your choices, remember to fill your crate well, my friends. Fill it well.”
Below are some excerpts from the past month’s interviews. I hope that they’ll inspire you to live fully and to “fill your crate" exceptionally well.
“Pay attention, just pay attention, it’s a blink; you know that it’s a blink. I remember when you were pregnant and now he’s a teenager. It’s a blink and suddenly its one day and then the next and something has changed that you can’t go back to. So pay attention, that’s all. Every once in a while just stop and just look. Don’t clean anything. Don’t rearrange anything. Just pay attention. That’s all, it’s pretty simple.”
“As I got older and moved away from home I didn’t get to my parents’ or grandparents’ enough. I got all tied up in my own life so I didn’t go as often as I should. See them as often as you can. You don’t want to regret it later.”
“You’re only here once… take advantage of it. Make sure you make the most out of all the opportunities. If someone says ‘Let’s go’… go. Take the freedom while you have it.”
“Do the things you want to do instead of what you are supposed to do. Go to Europe. Break the rules. Try new careers. Trust your gut. Don’t be afraid of living in anyone’s shadow.”
“Spend less time idling. The sandcastles you build in your mind don’t matter. You need to create. Show your work. Know that what you come up with is imperfect. Share. Teamwork will help you find the blind spots.”
“The bad moments are only blips. Don’t get hung up on a single moment in your life. Everything can change. There are too many options and paths to feel like you are ever stuck in just one.”
“Practice piano more. Spend more time with dad. A lot of things we take for granted are going to be forever might not be.”
“Don’t sell your time and your life hour by hour. Work to create something of value that can help you to purchase your freedom. Create something lasting.”
“Take it in and enjoy it. Explore. Think about how do I always keep that baby giggle. There is such pure joy in that giggle. Ask yourself, ‘How can I keep that baby giggle?’”
“Never take anything for granted. Honor and praise Him everyday. These days are not promised.”
“I would acknowledge that there are different chapters. You live a certain life, with a certain purpose and then it changes for the better. Those chapters are like reincarnation within your life. You get chances. You get learning. Take advantage of those transitions. They may not be easy, but they are worth it. With every new chapter, you are becoming.”
“My family and friends.”
“Friends and family, and pets are part of the family.”
“Being happy. Surround yourself with people. Make the most of what you have. Instill happiness in your family and friends. People can learn from you being happy and passing that happiness on.”
“No matter how hard things get there is an instinct to push on. Just in surviving and persisting. There is value in that.”
“Life itself — who knows if this is the only time or thing we will be involved in. Life on its own is meaningful in itself.”
“Peace on Earth. Happiness, it’s all about happiness. Buddhism really resonates with me. We should give happiness to people.”
“To live long and prosper. (for my fellow Vulcans)”
“Figuring out how to give back. It’s a virtuous cycle. Life is what you give to it and get back from it, and it just keeps getting better and better.”
“To connect with people with love. To be an example of joy. To live in integrity and be authentic. Connect+Joy+Integrity=Conjegrity. We are here for each other.”
“I think it is about passing along kindness, respect and tolerance. And to fight in whatever way against people and organizations that are contrary to those core values.”
Kim Evenson is Legacy.com's Chief Marketing Officer. The inspiration for the Meaning of Life Project was born from the company's mission of preserving life stories and sharing important lessons.