Tag Archives: wisdom

Musings: Life’s Too Short

Today’s topic is: “Finish this sentence: Life is too short to…” 

That’s an easy one.


That became my life’s motto fifteen years ago when, at the age of 24, my childhood friend Adam died. I’d like to tell you a little about my old friend Adam.

Neighborhood Kids 1981, phoebedecook.com

In the fall of 1980, my parents bought a large piece of land in the woods of Northern Vermont and by the summer of 1981, they had started to build a house. I was four and a half and my sister Sarah had just turned seven. Our closest neighbor lived a half mile down the dirt road and they had two children: Adam, who was the same age as me, and Jill, who was a year or two younger. The four of us quickly became best friends and played together often, sometimes at our house, sometimes at their house, and sometimes in the fields and woods in between.

For five impressionable years, we were inseparable, until my parents announced their divorce and I moved into an apartment in town with my mom, and then across the country to Arizona.

After we moved away, I didn’t talk to our old neighbors much. But in the summer of 1998, when I flew to Boston for dental school interviews, I decided to rent a car and drive up to my hometown to have a look around. Adam and Jill (and their younger sister Annie) were home when I pulled into their drive. He had just received his journalism degree from Northwestern and was planning to travel the world. He and I went for a walk through the woods to visit my old house and then we spent an hour touring around town, where I stopped in to see grade-school teachers who hadn’t retired yet and marvel at how a few things looked just like they had decades before.

In February 2000, Adam was exploring the jungles and waterfalls in Guyana when he contracted malaria. He was taken to Trinidad for medical help but on February 24, 2000, he passed away. The news of his passing was a tremendous shock for me. I had just seen him! How could he be gone?! He wasn’t an old man. He was my age! Wait a minute! People my age can die?!

It was then that I realized that life is too short to be unhappy. Adam had followed his dream and had been doing what made him happy, and here I was stuck in a dental school program that clearly wasn’t my passion. I decided to make an immediate change to my life. I dropped out of dental school (my first intentional detour), found a job (to start paying off my massive student loans), and began searching for my own path in life.

Over the years, I listened to that motto time and time again. It got me out of overly stressful jobs and toxic relationships. Now, fifteen years later, I finally feel like I’m where I’m meant to be! And even though I miss my dear old friend, he taught me one of the most important lessons of my life. For that, I will always be grateful.

What’s your life’s motto? Please share in the comments.

~ Phoebe DeCook

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