I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe. Was this what a heart attack feels like?
It was my first time to the gym in years and it was every bit as bad as I had remembered. The pain, the taste of blood, the lack of air and the erratic throbbing of my heart made me want to faint.
As I slouched against the wall gasping for breath, a guy walks up to me: “Try laying down and keep your feet up on the wall. It’ll help a lot.”
That’s how I got to know Mike.
Morning, afternoon, evening — three times a day, he’d be at the gym lifting away during his downtime from delivering flowers. It’s funny because we’d often joke about how he’d be the last flower courier people would ever steal from; he was literally hulk with a bouquet of flowers.
And then one day, just as I thought I started to know him better, he disappeared. Poof. He was gone, just like that.
It wasn’t until almost three years later when I saw him again.
He looked nothing like before. He looked haggard, almost frail, as he struggled, fully concentrating, on grabbing a jar of peanut butter with his right hand that shook incessantly.
Was this the Mike I once knew?
I reached out and grabbed the jar for him. He nodded at me and we walked around the supermarket together, in silence.
As I helped him load his groceries into the trunk of his wife’s car, he told me of the cocaine addiction he once had. He told me of the stroke that came with it, the stroke that left the right side of his body permanently paralyzed.
I didn’t know what to say.
We promised to meet again for coffee, but as we parted, he looked me in the eye and said:
“I know you feel bad for me, but don’t. Don’t pity me. I want you to realize that all of this here is because of what I’ve done. The result to my actions. There’s no one to blame but myself and I’ve accepted it. I’m moving on.You are where you deserve to be.”
I couldn’t help but think about the last sentence he had said.
“You are where you deserve to be.”
This was a guy who had dreamed of becoming a professional bodybuilder and he worked hard for it, but because of a mistake he had made, he could no longer go back; he future lost, and along with it, his dreams.
In an almost sick, morbid way, his tragedy was the wake up call for me.
It made me think of who I was, where I was in life, and even more importantly, what I wanted to do with my life. It reminded me of all the time I’ve wasted and all the times I’ve given up when I shouldn’t have.
Most mistakes we make in life are those can be recovered from and because of reason, we take things for granted. Day after day, week after week, month after month, we give into our temptations, allow our impulses to run free and shirk our responsibilities because we have no sense of time. We don’t realize how precious our time is to us until we no longer have it.
What if tomorrow we suddenly run out of time? Have we accomplished all we’ve wanted to?
A tragedy is a tragedy, and what happened to Mike could have just as easily happened to us. The phrase, “You are where you deserve to be” should act as a reminder to not take our lives, and in particular, our time for granted. Every moment in our life is a limited moment because once passed, we can never it get back.
So it makes us think:
Are we going to waste my future away by continuing to do things that don’t matter?
Are we going to continue giving into temptations that offer nothing back in return?
Are we going to allow ourselves to live a meaningless life?
If we don’t grasp the opportunity to change our future for a better one now, how is it any different from living under the consequences of the tragedy that Mike suffers from? The only difference would be that, compared to Mike who didn’t have a choice, we choose to waste that opportunity. And if that’s truly how it is, then Mike’s words will have been for nothing.
Everything we do in life — the actions we take, the words we speak, the paths we choose — all come together to determine who we are and how far we’ll go. And that’s how it’s actually always been. We are the ones who get to decide on the kind of life we want; we just never realized it because all along we’ve taken our time for granted.
But now that we know, what are you going to do about it?
Remember, you are where you deserve to be.