My name is Michael, and I’m a taphophile.
I just learned that word tonight. A taphophile is someone who’s interested in cemeteries. I’m fascinated by graveyards. They possess so much history. They offer up infinite quantities of knowledge, if you just open your eyes, shut your mouth, and look around.
I go out walking to clear my mind, and more often than not, my route takes me through the local cemetery. Some people are creeped out by cemeteries, especially this time of year with Halloween right around the corner. But they’re not haunted. Spirited? Yes. But not haunted. They’re spirited in the sense that they’re full of voices, even when you’re the only living, breathing soul around. It’s amazing how a place supposedly full of death can teach us so much about life.
I study tombstones as I walk around the cemetery. I see names and I imagine them as the living, breathing characters they once were. I contemplate all the things they may have missed out on during their lifetime… simple joys like indoor plumbing, BLT pizza, or the music video for Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.”
But then I wonder: what simple joys am I missing out on right now? Am I giving this life all I’ve got? Inevitably, every stroll through the cemetery brings me to the same destination: I’m not living my best possible life. I’m not the most genuine version of myself.
I think about the different stages of my life up to this point and I’m convinced that I’ve always presented a watered-down version of myself to the world. I was terribly shy in high school, afraid to speak up and stand on my own two feet. When I went off to college, I was able to shed some shyness and be somebody else. But much of my personality was just trying to be who I thought others wanted me to be, including pandering to the opposite sex to get their attention (spoiler alert: crash and burn). My 20’s brought more of the same.
If you met me in high school or college, you probably didn’t meet the real me. If you’ve met me sometime in adulthood, you haven’t seen the authentic me yet either. I’m 40 and I still don’t know who I want to be when I grow up.
Any driven person goes through an evolution as they age, and I’m no exception. I’ve found the confidence I lacked earlier. I’ve discovered I can be a nice guy and still say no sometimes. I’ve determined that I can’t take on other people’s worries as my own, because the weight is too heavy. And most importantly, I’m mastering the ability to put myself first in appropriate situations without feeling selfish.
It’s a certainty that I’m currently at a crossroads in my life, not with just one aspect of it, but several. It’s a war with multiple fronts as I aim to redefine my purpose, my beliefs, my health, my mental well-being, my objectives, and my role in this crazy existence – not only to the people in my life, but to my community and the world in general. Some people would pull their hair out in angst. But not me. I welcome the challenge (plus I don’t have enough hair to pull out anyway).
As I continue on this path, one thing is certain: there are to be no regrets. I already have enough of those and I don’t need anymore. I will stand up for myself. I will stand up against the injustices of the world. I won’t hesitate to take the next phenomenal trip to somewhere epic, all the while blasting the Foo Fighters’ “Best of You” until my arms are blanketed with goosebumps from the surge of adrenaline.
You haven’t seen the best of me yet.