You Can’t Take it With You

“You can’t take it with you.” This is a motto I’ve lived by my whole life, especially when I’m debating with my husband about how much I can spend on our vacation. He’d rather stuff that money into savings for a rainy day, and I want to blow it on a sunny day, preferably in an exotic location.

For the most part, I’m a fairly practical person. I don’t like debt, I value a solid savings plan, and I look for a good deal, when I can find it. But I also think life is short and I want to enjoy every minute of it.

Recently, though, it occurred to me that it’s not just money you can’t take with you. You also can’t take time or knowledge or awards or praise. It all gets left behind, no matter how smart or rich or successful you become. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be always learning more, achieving more, advancing more. And, to a point, that’s wise and necessary, but at times it feels overwhelming and punitive.

For example, I have two shelves and a basket in my basement that contain 100 unread books. The other day, I tried to cull those shelves by donating some of the books to the library, but I couldn’t do it. I never can, because part of me feels compelled to read them someday. So at least once a week, I glance at those piles and feel pressure. I recall that expression, “So many books, so little time,” and I hear the clock ticking.

But let’s be realistic . . . suppose I did read all those books and then 1,000 more, I can’t take that knowledge or experience into the next life. And in the meantime, I’m not buying or reading books I really want to read right now because I feel this self-imposed need to finish the books I bought.

In other words, goals and plans are necessary. They give us purpose and drive and help us do work that will contribute to the greater good. Something I read in a book, for example, may change me in a way that affects or improves my work or life perspective. But if I died tomorrow, and those books remained unread, my life would have been no less meaningful.

So never let your goals or convictions get in the way of living your life. It’s not about who dies with more, it’s about who lived the most.

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