Randy Brameier lived 13,904 days. He died 14 years ago at age 38. Diabetes gradually overtook him.
He was a friend and colleague. We would leave the office at least twice a day to go on “jaunts” to buy coffee and snacks or lunch, but the underlying purpose of our walks was to talk about and clear our minds of the insane things we had been working on that particular day as news reporters in New Jersey shore (United States) towns with ample crazy news. Randy had his serious side, but also a great sense of humor and he could make light of a bad situation like no other. We would laugh when we really should have been shaking our fists and cursing the planets.
“What we have is a failure to communicate,” was his favorite saying around the office. It seemed our bosses were always failing to communicate. Randy used the “failure to communicate” line in the face of challenge and adversity brought on indeed by a failure to communicate. After so many failures by the head office, what else was there to do but make light of the repeated missteps.
As I’ve stated here before, hours and hours spent traveling on a bus leads to hours upon hours thinking about the mundane, but sometimes about life. What should I do? Where should I go? Should I return home to find another job in journalism? Should I settle down? Should I just plain settle? Am I doing the right thing? Should that guy really be wearing yellow? Questions, questions.
When I recently saw the above poster on the Internet as I sat on a bus at work picking up a weak wi-fi signal, Randy came rushing back into my brain. As if it were yesterday I could hear him saying his classic failure to communicate line. Made me smile. But then I paused to examine the content of the poster, oddly placed on some Malaysian website written entirely in Malay except for the words on the poster: “Your Failures Do Not Define You.”
I’m not sure Randy would have run with this particular mantra. He was too much of a wisecrack to go around reciting such hefty prose. But then the whole notion of failures in life hurled my cluttered brain toward a conversation-turned-debate I had earlier in the week with a friend.
We were chatting via Skype. When we began to discuss turning points in our lives, I didn’t think it would be such a big deal when I told her “I love my life.” Her expression quickly changed and she responded that it was alright to love my life, but to voice that sentiment was not okay. She argued that it amounted to crass bragging and was insensitive to others whose lives aren’t going so well. Ohhh-kaaay!
I don’t claim to be Mr. Sensitivity, but I’m far from insensitive when it comes to the downtrodden. Been there myself, after all. I know a thing or two about being down and out. But how is expressing one’s happiness wrong?
After a volley of exchanges on the subject we agreed to disagree and moved on. (Hmmm…maybe I should have said I hate my life and gone for the sympathy).
In life we are pleased when we are doing what makes us happy. One of the things that makes me extremely happy is travel. My love of travel came at a very young age. I was always drawn to maps and could study them for hours. Geography was my favorite subject. It still is.
So now that I am fulfilling one of my life’s dreams – to travel around the world – I can truly say I love my life. Not that I didn’t love it before. I’ve been blessed with experiences few can claim: Visits to all but one of the U.S. states – Alaska get ready for the celebration of my arrival – travel to all but two continents – Australia and MAYBE Antarctica here I come. Meeting some incredible people worldwide, with more ahead.
Now I realize that there are countless others who would love to do what I’m doing, at least so they tell me, but because of circumstance and happenstance they can’t – or won’t.
Randy’s life was short. Jon Chamber’s life was short. Gayle Westry’s life was much too short. The list of peers who have died young is too long. Their brief time on Earth serve as a reminder that life is too short and there’s much to be seen and to be done. Follow your heart. If you like to cook, cook. If you like to climb, climb. Fulfill your dreams! A don’t fail at communicating to yourself and to others what makes you angry, sad, but above all, happy. And recognize that indeed your failures do not define you. Dust yourself off and next time around do for you that which makes you stand up and say I LOVE MY LIFE! There is no greater feeling.
For me, it’s the love of travel. Or a simple matter of remembering an old friend.