Let me tell you a story about what my life was like: Everyday I woke up at 6am. I walked across the street and got breakfast at the diner. After that I walked down a couple of blocks to work. From 7am to 5pm I pumped gas at the gas station. Didn’t take a break once. Not once. Then after filling about 200 cars with gas I walked back to the diner and got myself some dinner. The lady at the diner was nice. She always had a smile on her face. She seemed pleased to see me everyday. Everyday I ordered something different, until I had ordered everything on the menu. I was a regular. Everyone who worked at the diner knew me. After dinner I walked back across the street to my home, or should I say my parents’ home. I never moved out of my parents’ home, but I’ll get to that later. Once I got home, I sat in front of the TV. I watched the screen for hours until I fell asleep on the couch with the remote in my hand. This happened everyday. Not a single day that this routine wasn’t fulfilled. It was a pretty pathetic life.
I didn’t talk to the lady at the diner very much, despite the fact that I was there twice a day everyday. But I once overheard her talking to the chef.
“I feel bad for the man,” said the woman, as she pointed her head in my direction.
“How come?” said the chef, “It’s not your fault. He must have did this to himself.”
“I know, but just look at him.”
“I don’t need to look at him. I see enough of his pathetic self everyday.”
“Exactly! He’s here every single day. Don’t you feel a little bad for the poor guy?”
“Not at all. Think about it, he’s worked at that gas station for the past 50 years.”
“Yeah. Well, I heard he had to drop out of high school to get that job when his mother died.”
“But that doesn’t make up for the fact that he has been working there for practically his entire life. He could have left and done something.”
“The least you can do is feel a little bad for him.”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t even matter. Come on, get back to work.”
And that was the end of their conversation. The only thing I’ve heard the two of them talking about bedsides taking my order and serving my food. I guess that says a lot about my life.
Now my 89 year-old self is here, in the same town it has always been in. My life was a waste. And just like the lady at the diner said, I feel bad for myself. Not a day of my life did I actually do something important. Unless you count my record of 347 cars in one day, pretty impressive if you ask me. But besides that my life was a complete waste. Never graduated from college. Well, never even graduated high school. Never moved out of my parent’s house. Never got married. Never had kids. Never seen the world. Never did anything but work at that gas station a couple blocks down and eat at the diner across the street.
I am nothing. No feelings, no ideas, no accomplishments. All I am is my deep brown eyes, almost as black as an empty hole. My white hair, a blanket of snow. My long beard that’s hiding the bottom of my face. My wrinkly skin, the skin of an old man. My slouched posture from working too long hours pumping gas.
When I die, nothing will be left to remember me by. My memory will fade away into nothing. So here I have decided to write this letter for anyone who chooses to read it. If anyone even cares enough to read it. But I guess it won’t matter to me because I won’t be alive to see what happens either way. Anyway, this is my letter:
A few days ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I discovered my life is slipping away from me, and it is out of my control. This made me reflect on my life. All I can think about now is how much I have wasted my life. But more importantly, how I let my life fly by without doing anything worthwhile. How I never did anything to turn my life around. How I never even tried. So the one thing that I want everyone to learn from me is don’t waste your life. Don’t let your life slip away from you. Don’t let your life get the best of you. Make the best of your life, even if you’re a worker at a gas station. Don’t let a good life go to waste, like I did. You can turn your life around. You can achieve your dreams, if you try. And remember that you can achieve anything impossible. This is the one thing that I wish someone told me throughout my life. I wish someone believed in me. I wish someone told me that I was capable. That someone told me I wasn’t just a high school drop out that had nothing going for me. This is what I want people to remember me by. I want people to remember me by the lessons I’ve learned, not the mistakes I’ve made or the things I never did. I want people to take my pathetic story and turn it into something to learn from. I want people make themselves have a better story to tell, a better story to be remembered by.
The Old Man You Don’t Want to Be