There are things that happen as you get older. There are battles that are lost that never should have been lost. There are dreams that never should have been left unfulfilled. There are projects that should have been completed. And there is time that you can never get back.
I have done things that have made a difference in people’s life.
I know that because the people have told me—called me out of the blue and said thank you.
I know that because I’ve run into people at random—people I don’t remember—who have said something I did made a difference in their life. I got off the train at South Station in Boston, was walking with what seemed thousands of other people in Boston who had gotten off of other trains and heard someone—a total stranger—say to me “Professor [grandpa]? You don’t remember me, but you were my teacher in business writing when I was junior at St Anselm. I use what you taught me every day. I’m vice president at [a big bank in Boston], and the way I got there was knowing how to write. And it was your class that taught me how to do it. I always meant to call you and tell you thanks..
And I’ve seen writers who wrote for me as their first editor win awards for work they did for me, win awards and publish books when I was the first editor who believed in them.
But you get older, and the work you set out to do hasn’t been done, and you think you’re starting to run out of time. The clock hasn’t stopped ticking yet, but the tick-tocks are coming faster and faster and sounding fainter and fainter.
It’s the angst that destroys. So how do you answer it?
Trust the people you know.
Know that you have influenced other people’s life.
Understand that no work ever gets done by whining about the fact it’s not getting done.
Accept the fact that when you die you die. What you’ve done to that point is the sum total of your work.
Accept the fact that you’re alive.
It’s hard to imagine I’ll ever be satisfied. But I can still keep working.