Acceptance. Moderation. Selflessness. The secrets to living a happy life — at least according to the 17 year old version of myself.
In order to understand where this all comes from, I need to dig back a decade, maybe more.
This past spring I received a phone call from Mike. Mike was looking for a wedding photographer to capture his special day. He told me all about how he’d met this amazing girl named Danielle about six months earlier and how he knew from the very beginning that she was the one. He told me how he’d proposed to her and how they’d decided on an August wedding. I recall Mike saying something to the effect of “When you know you have something great, why wait!” I agreed – not only with Mike’s sentiment, but I agreed to shoot his wedding! After all, I’ve known Mike since I was about five years old and I know that because Mike does everything with gusto, his wedding was bound to be one to remember.
A month or so later, I was sitting in a coffee shop with Mike and his beautiful fiance Danielle. As Mike and I caught each other up on what had been going on in our lives in the near decade since we’d seen each other, I filled Danielle in on just how long we’d known each other. We’d been schoolmates since kindergarten and later became buddies in high school. Mike was the fun-loving guy who kept his friends laughing with his quick sense of humor, and in awe over his creativity. Mike was also a genuinely good friend. Although Mike’s memory doesn’t serve him, I recalled for Danielle the many long conversations I remembered having with Mike back in high school, back when we had the whole world stretched out wide ahead of us.
I recounted one memory in particular: one night while home on break from college, I was cruisin’ around Delmar in my mom’s minivan, listening to music and thinking about life. I drove past the Mobile station on Delaware Ave and saw Mike through the window, working the late shift. I looped around, parked the old maroon Chevy Lumina and went inside. Mike was at his usual post behind the register. As WGNA played softly from a set of speakers that sat out of view, Mike and I talked. Somewhere in that conversation we decided on the formula for a happy life: Acceptance. Moderation. Selflessness. I was so convinced of this trifecta that I grabbed an old Speedpass brochure from the counter and jotted it down in the small white margin of the page. Leaving Mobile that night, I ripped the edges from the wide piece of paper, folded it into quarters and tucked it into my wallet.
Weeks after recounting this story to Danielle, I was in a hotel room in San Diego. While out shopping that afternoon I’d bought a new wallet. As I sat on the bed transferring my credit cards, license, and cash into the wallet, a thin fold of random bills fell out of a side pocket. There were a few bahts from Thailand, one or two pounds from England, and a Euro from Ireland. I guess I’d stuck them in there to remind me of the green pastures to which I’d been. Waded up inside the fold, wrapped in quarters, was a piece of paper. Its edges were yellowed by time. Figuring it for an old receipt, I reached to toss it into the bin. But as I did, something caught my eye: “Speedpass”, it read on the back. I carefully peeled apart the folds and there in blue ink were the secrets to life: Acceptance. Moderation. Selflessness.
Although I don’t know if the now-grown versions of ourselves would create the same list today, I find it interesting that these principles have indeed silently guided me through the years. As I watched Mike and Danielle plan for their big day, wed each other in a beautiful ceremony, and then celebrate with family and friends on a riverboat cruise on the Hudson, my heart just about burst with joy for an old friend whose three wise words of advice will continue to guide me.
Mike and Danielle – I wish you nothing but all the happiness you deserve. I hope your marriage is framed by selflessness and acceptance … with a little moderation thrown in every now and again for good measure!
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