As the house lights came down and darkened the theater before the second act began, a hush washed across the audience. As we sat in the silence, we heard delicate fingers dancing on the ivory keys as the hallowed white spotlight framed the cast of RENT against the backdrop of a darkened stage. As I visually grasped the context of the scene, the angelic choral began, “525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear, 525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?”
The poignantly painted imagery enveloped me in the moment and the lyric sent chills down my spine. It was a provocative, rousing, infectious and yet, an eerily ironic moment in the annals of my life. As I was winding down the final minutes of another year of my existence and preparing to embark on yet another 525,600 minutes of my own, I had recently been deliberating the same question; how do I measure success?
Later on in the evening as I sat in my family room and counted down the minutes to midnight, I thought about the past year and again I found myself contemplating how I measured my own achievements. Is it my career? Is my bank account big enough? Do I have the perfect house? The perfect car? The perfect life? Have I finally become one of the “Joneses?” And whether or not I have, is that enough? Or is there more?
The list grew with each new item I wrote down and subsequently, I became more frustrated with how long the list had become. For every question that I asked in order to rank my year, my decade, or my life, I was forced to add even more subsets and intricate questions that continually forced me to reorganize and renew my quest for the answer to what seemed like a very simple question; “how do you measure a year in the life?”
Frustrated with the never ending list of my quantifiable directory of life achievements, I decided to review the actual pages of the past year. And hidden within those very pages, I found that the glimpses into the interwoven articles and stories about my corner of the universe had revealed a simple, yet common theme throughout each personal observation; love. In the sadness, the humor and the pontification of an introspective moment, my life is filled with an overabundance of love. From my family members to my friends, to the kindness of strangers and even in the various interactions I have had with Mother Nature herself, I am surrounded by love.
I tore the long list of achievement items that I had been working on from the notebook and I threw it away. On a clean sheet of paper, I wrote the word “Love” in capital letters in the center of the page. I stared at it for a few minutes. I thought about my last year as well as the years leading up to this past year and how that one solitary word had had such a profound impact on me as a person. And then I smiled because there were no more questions to be asked. There were no more subsets to be derived from this word, no intricate or delicate balances to maintain, and there were no materialistic items to acquire. There was just that one word; “Love.”
I suspect that every one of us will find a moment in our lives when we examine the measure of our existence in the course of day, a year or in the context of many decades. I know I have. It happened while sitting in a field in Goldston, North Carolina. It was a solitary moment of clarity that reminded me that I had made my life too complicated. And at that very moment, I decided to simplify my life and focus on what was truly important in each of the moments I was to live between the cradle and the grave. I made a conscience decision to share my laughter, my dreams and my love with the people in my life who make everything worthwhile.
As the cast of characters joined voices on Saturday night for the big finish of the opening song of the second act, the words echoed throughout my soul to create a haunting and heartfelt moment in my day. “In truths that she learned, Or times that he cried, In the bridges he burned, Or the way that she died, It’s time to sing out, the story never ends let’s celebrate remember a year in the life of friends. How about love?”
As the clock struck 12:01 am on Sunday morning and I only had 525,599 minutes left in the newest chapter of my personal history, I knew it would be another amazing journey because I have every single one of you to share each and every new day that I have. And for that, I will be eternally grateful!
Note: For those who have not seen RENT or know the song I am quoting, I have shared the link from the movie below: