Last week, a friend passed away after a relatively brief but intense battle with lung cancer. I didn’t know Paul well, but he was very close with a few of my very close friends, and I had spent enough time with him to understand that he was special: he had a light inside of him. A curiosity and energy that opened his eyes, lit up his mind, and made him go. I could feel it the first time I met him.
Later last week, I was traveling for work, first to the Bay Area and then to Austin. In both cases, I spent time with old, great friends who I don’t get to see very often. And in both cases, I stayed out way later than I should and usually do, and drank way more than I should or usually do. But as with most things like that there is good along with the bad.
Not that surprisingly, I guess, I ended up having almost the same conversation in both places. And that conversation was about how wonderful it is to find people in your life who have that light inside of them. There are so many nasty people in the world, and being a kid (or a grownup, for that matter) can be hard, and compoundingly hard the fewer sources of light you have in your life. You don’t always find people with that light — right away, or sometimes at all. So when you do, it is so fantastic.
Thinking about Paul, and thinking about my friends, it made me so thankful for the people in my life who are generous, curious, thoughtful, creative, and full of light. It has taken a long time to find them. And it’s also so easy to take them for granted if you’re not careful.
It makes me think about how we find people who have this (specifically, on the internet), and also how we find and cultivate our own center of light, often in the face of doubt and difficulty.
Coincidentally, on the flight home, I started reading James Altschuler‘s book, Choose Yourself. One idea he stresses is that the key to happiness (and success) is lighting and stoking the fire inside you, and letting everything else flow from that. And that this can be hard to do, since there are plenty of ways for us to doubt ourselves, get distracted, and lose faith that our fire is real and valuable.
He calls it a fire, not a light, but it’s the same idea. It’s getting over whatever bullshit may be in your way (approval of others, fitting in, etc), and focusing on the energy, the fire, at your core. Being honest and accepting about what that is, and letting that guide your way to more and more. It’s a simple idea, but has really stuck with me.
So, I’ll just end by thanking everyone who puts light out into the world, including many of those in my current orbit who I appreciate enormously. And by encouraging myself and everyone else to keep stoking the fire, even when it’s hard to do.