The man who became known to the world as the Crocodile Hunter died yesterday – a stab to the heart via a stingray. To most of us it seems an incomprehensible death – shock twined with “what was he thinking” sympathy. But after hearing the news, my first reaction was: thank God he was able to find his passion in life – and he truly lived, loved and died with zeal. Many of us count the minutes and hours until we can escape the confines of corporate or blue-collar America to indulge distractions. We spend time surfing the digital wave, fighting with spouses, chasing impossible men and reinventing ourselves through cosmetics and clothes. But what we really need to focus on is finding our own inner Crocodile Hunter.
As a child of entrepreneurial parents, I’ve always been encouraged to pursue my passions, elicit avant-garde ideas and challenge the status quo. That translated roughly into teenage rebellion and produced a very opinionated, strangely nonchalant, wandering 20-something year old. I spent my late teen years trying on different career outfits – broadcast journalist, social worker, psychologist – but I’d eventually become dissatisfied with how each looked on me. When it came time to choose a college (and let alone a major!) I fell back on the one thing that made me thirst for more – that incited me to live and dream big, that kept me asking questions and rarely ceased to amaze me: writing.
I count myself one of the blessed few who taps into their inner forte early in life – allowing time for development, abandonment and reinvention. But I also am well aware of the millions of people who simply go through the motions of life, each monotonous day blurring into the next. Not by choice, but from fear. I, too, was one of those millions who draw a line between “reality” and “dreams” – i.e. our innermost passions.
That was until I met Don – a man who would become my pastor and forever change my thoughts on work, religion, relationships, life and death. He was by trade a pious man with provincial undertones and a wicked sense of humor. An amazing speaker in front of a crowd, he was even more awe-inspiring one-on-one. Seven years ago he was diagnosed with a rare and terminal blood cancer. Throughout it all – the chemotherapy, alternative therapies, debilitation, transfusions – he carried on with his passion: preaching the word of his God. Each Sunday he would hobble onto the stage and connect his mic to an oversized shirt and orate with the vigor and vitality of a younger, healthier version of himself only to collapse minutes after final prayer.
As I watched his body wither and witnessed his ardent discount of idle warnings that he should stop preaching, I was inspired to reflect on my own life. At this point I had stopped writing, save some freelance articles here and there and was riding a desk – 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The income was more stable, but I craved freedom, welcomed curiosity, and desired change. I found myself discontent and frustrated, seeking distractions and internally screaming, “Is this all there is?!?”
NO he screamed back. No! In one of his last sermons, Don preached the importance of freeing ourselves from the “band of mediocrity” we have created for our life – that is the so-called safety net we have installed to keep us from dreaming too big, falling too hard, or getting too hurt. In our age of all-access reality TV, big corporations and overnight stars, it’s easy to concede our passions to “them” – them being the richer, smarter, thinner and savvier coupled with the haters, critics and nonbelievers.
So as we enter the transitional month of September, I challenge you to begin the search for your inner Crocodile Hunter, your inner Don – the job or project or cause or whatever that can act as a motivation throughout your day and life. A life lived cautiously is not a life lived at all. Dare to reshape your world, forfeit mediocrity for quality and remember to live and love fully because like Kanye said, nothing’s ever promised tomorrow today.