The best advice I ever got on how to live a life came from one of my English professors when I was a student at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
I don’t remember the professor’s name. I don’t remember what he looked like. I do remember that he was a seasoned man, a gifted intellectual who had received his Ph.d from Harvard. And I do remember much of what he had to say to us.
It was a Friday morning in early April just after 10 a.m.. I sat in his classroom in Thomas
Boyd Hall four rows from the front, right by the window. The sun poured in through the large plate-glass windows from a clear and cloudless sky.
He sat on his desk discussing Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer. “Don’t live someone else’s idea of what a life should be,” he told us. “If you do, you are going to wake up at the end of someone else’s life never having lived your own.”
Brandishing the professor’s philosophies, I charged full-speed in May of that year through the gates of graduation toward my own appointment with time. I was haughty, arrogant, cocksure.
My nascent ego was grandiose in direct proportion to the fears and insecurities that I tried to keep hidden from myself. In my imagination I had created a world of future success wherein I was to be loved completely and forever in a world far from the reach of death and decline. My grand illusions held the terrible monsters in the darkness at bay so I could drift off to sleep at night.
I was going to be the Boy Wonder, the Peter Pan. Like the words of the song by Elton John, “I never thought I’d lose, I only thought I’d win.”
I was sorely mistaken.