As their airplane fell from the sky, just blocks from where the World Trade Center used to stand, every passenger onboard believed this to be their last moment of life as they braced for impact.
The plane forcefully rattled as it dipped it’s tail into the frigid waters of the Hudson River, and then turbulently whipped itself around to a halt. And then nothing. No explosion. Captain Sullenberger of US Airways Flight 1549 had safely executed an emergency landing in the Hudson River, and spared all 155 people on board their lives.
The survivors call themselves the “1549ers” as a reminder of the traumatic experience they all shared. For some miraculous reason, everyone had survived what could have been a complete tragedy. Because they were given a second chance at life, many of the 1549ers changed their lives overnight and talk about the immense perspective they were given. Immediately following the experience, Lori Lightner quit her well-paying job as a manager of a chain of retail stores and began volunteering her time at the Red Cross, saying “money is not important”.
Over Privileged & Entitled
Many of us, in our over privileged Western culture, sweat the small stuff on a daily basis. I’m sure today you’ve already stressed out about something trivial—the lineup at Starbucks, rush hour traffic, annoying people on public transit, a coworker, a boss. We get angry with our loved ones over things that don’t matter, we judge our friends, we criticize people we don’t know, and we carry on as if we’re entitled to something.
Okay, that might have sounded a bit harsh, and I don’t mean to say that we’re all jerks who don’t appreciate anything, but let’s face it, we make things bigger than they really are.
Sometimes the things we stress about are much bigger than a lineup at Starbucks—mortgage payments, car payments, credit card payments, student loan payments—it’s easier to make these things almost larger than life itself. Many of us thrust ourselves into getting a University Degree (or many University Degrees), securing a solid “job”, and “buying [a house] young”, because that’s what our society furiously tells us to do, so we viciously plummet ourselves into a lifelong debt that many of us may never see the end of.
Why You Need Perspective
Whether it’s the long lineup at Starbucks that’s making you late for work, or the never-ending mortgage payments on your house that’s causing you stress today, you need to know something:
You might not live to see tomorrow.
What about the mortgage payments?
The student debt?
The stressful boss?
The rush hour traffic?
The annoying person on the bus?
The long lineup at Starbucks?
All of this now seems quite trivial now, doesn’t it?
This is exactly why you need perspective.
You are Entitled to Nothing
Yes, you read that correctly. Other than the moment you are living right now, you are entitled to nothing. Your life, your one and only life—whether you believe it’s from God, the Universe, or just by mere chance—is a gift. You are not promised anything, and your life may be shorter than you had planned, so why would you ever waste another moment of your beautiful life on something that does not matter?
You Don’t Need to Survive a Plane Crash to Have Perspective
Every single one of the 1549ers, and any other person who has had a near-death experience, were forcefully gifted perspective. The trauma they went through gave them no other choice but to realize how absolutely lucky, or blessed they were to be given a second chance. Many of them drastically changed their lives overnight, because the permanent perspective that they were given simply did not allow them to stress about trivial things anymore.
However, it seems slightly more difficult for those of us who haven’t had a near-death experience before to truly live in the moment, completely forget about our daily troubles, and stop worrying about “the future”. The truth is, you don’t ever get to live in the future, you only live in the present, and you will only ever be in the present moment until the day you die. Whether you’re emotionally living in the present is a different story, so get your head back in the game and bring yourself to realize that you’re alive right now, in the present, not the future.
One of the most amazing things about our species, the Human Being, is that we can simulate experiences without ever having experienced them. This is something that only we can do. So, let’s put that amazing imagination of yours to use:
A Little Push on the Path of Perspective
Take a moment and vividly imagine that you’re a passenger on US Airways Flight 1549, flying over the beautiful City of New York, and as you look out the window, a flock of Canada Geese are vacuumed into one of the jet engines, tearing it completely off of the airliner’s wing. In complete shock, you cannot believe your eyes, and you hesitate to imagine what this could possibly mean. As the plane rattles in descent towards the Hudson River, you are counting the seconds before the plane plummets into the frigid water. Captain Sullenberger’s voice suddenly appears throughout the cabin speakers, “prepare for impact”. The river is now looking like the runway, just seconds before touchdown, and you think, “this is it” as your mind races through all of the reasons why you’re not ready to die. And then it happens. Impact. Your stomach feels weak, your head is in a blur as the entire cabin violently shakes. The aircraft turbulently whips around until everything stops. Then nothing. You look out your window, and you’re gracefully floating in the water. You’re alive.
If you were able to vividly simulate that experience in your mind, you probably felt something — fear, anxiety, nervousness, something. While it’s nearly impossible you are able to fully appreciate what those passengers felt that day, in the very least, you are able to realize that you don’t ever want to experience something like that first-hand, and you have likely gained perspective on how life can end in a fleeting moment.
Perspective Acquired. Now What?
As you carry on throughout your day, be mindful of others and incredibly thankful for what you have.
The mortgage? You get to own a house. Many people don’t get that privilege. If you can’t afford a mortgage, sell your house and don’t buy one until you can afford it. Or, don’t even buy a house. They’re incredibly overpriced and the Canadian housing industry is mostly weak, and corrupt anyway.
The student debt? You are educated—something that is only ever acquired within the dreams of some young people. Stop wasting your money on things you don’t need and pay it off.
The stressful boss? You have a job! Do you not like your job? Quit! Find a better one today. You don’t have time for people who treat you poorly.
The rush hour traffic? Buy a bicycle, or take public transit. If that’s not an option, listen to your favourite music and take the long way.
The annoying person on the bus? Get over yourself. He’s probably a great guy and you’re judging him for no reason. Shake his hand, or tell him that he’s awesome.
The long lineup at Starbucks? Make your own coffee. It’s cheaper. Put the savings towards your student loans or a vacation. If you spend $5 each morning on a latte, that’s $100 a workweek, $1200 a year, or a round trip flight to Varadero, Cuba in Executive Class, fool!
You Must Start Today
Be nicer to your friends, don’t judge people anymore, don’t do things you hate, stop hanging out with people who bring you down. If you despise getting up to go to your job every morning, it’s time to move on and find a better job, or make your own job. It’s not worth wasting your beautiful time, and your amazing life on things that don’t add value.
Take baby steps. Take a giant leap. Move forward in some fashion, right now.
Ask yourself this morning, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”
If the answer is no, and you feel it will be the same tomorrow. It’s time for a change.
My friends, my family, my people, my readers — you are absolutely amazing, I promise. Whether you’re about to change something big or something small, you can do it.
What are your thoughts? I would love to know.
I want to hear from you. If you have questions, or you’re scared, or you’re excited, please let me know in the comments below, or just straight up send me a message! I have been trying to live my life according to what I’m telling you today, and sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s hard to remember, but it’s worth it because every day is the best day ever.
Thank you for reading so many of my words.