What one woman’s pandemic experience taught me about living out loud

If you read me regularly, you know that I get a fair amount of my article inspiration from the comments my readers leave. With rare exception, those comments inspire, rewire, and teach so many life lessons. It’s one of the main reasons I’ve not left the Medium platform, for there are few places where highlights, responses and interactions are as lively or as valuable. This particular response truly underscores that point.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Ivana Knezevic penned the following in response to a piece I wrote the other day for Crow’s Feet about living out loud:

Absolutely agree. Life is to be lived and I haven’t wasted mine, no way! If anything I have lived 5 full lifetimes by my 60th.

Quarantine hasn’t stopped me either.

On my return to Amsterdam after my yearly 3 months in India in February 2020, I had decided to spend one month in Bali (been there last way back in 1984) to see if I can revive my once fluent bahasa Indonesia, while waiting a month till it gets a bit warmer back in Europe. So I got there, beginning of March 2020.

One month turned into 4 months. Bali empty of tourists and under a lockdown, only days after I got there. I think mine was one of the last flights in.

That felt like a stroke of luck even under the weird circumstances — Dutch embassy calling all the citizens, urging them to drop whatever they are doing in Indonesia and go home to lock themselves in! All countries closing their borders etc.

Lock MYself in??? (Hmmm… I was locked once by others, but not that eager to lock myself in! Just not in my nature.)

Typically, I ignored that one. Watched in peace the last flight leave Bali without me.

Bali was precious, for once empty of the tourists… my partner and I were the only guests in our hotel for four months.

After we had returned at the end of June, the rest of 2020 and the first months of 2021 I was flying back and forth between Netherlands and Serbia. Five times? Maybe six, not sure. Frustrated I couldn’t go to India in November as usual. My first winter in Europe in more than 30 years!

At the moment I am soaking the sun in the south of Mexico. Been here almost three weeks now and not in a hurry to leave any time soon. Weather in Europe has been awful lately. Politics too. So, Mexico it is. I can stay six months, no problem. No tests, no jabs required. Perfect. Rented out my apartment in Amsterdam for just that long. Might as well work on improving my stale Spanish. It has been a while since I spoke it last. Bolivia in the early 90s, if memory serves me well.

I don’t climb masts naked, not at this stage of my life. The acrobatics naked, that was done when I was in my 20s. No blizzards either. Not very fond of the cold. But definitely a lot of monkey business, challenging the rules and doing the things my way.

By the time I lay dying I will have only two words to say: “Thank you!”

Even if it happens tomorrow, I could check out satisfied and grateful, knowing I did so much more than an average human being. Way more!

I feel blessed for the courage I was given to seize the day. (author bolded)

Photo by Christopher Alvarenga / Unsplash

Of course I asked her permission to use this, because this was just too good not to share with others. To that, Ivana wrote:

I hope between us we can teach at least one more person how beautiful life can be and convince them not to waste the precious time on the wrong things.

The best things in life are free.

For so many of those coming up behind us, there are so few role models for how to live richly, especially as we age. It has nothing at all to do with being rich, only rich in enough courage to do what it takes to live the life we wish. While that may not at all involve climbing up a mains’l or spending three months in India every year, the point is to work with the conditions we are given, not spend a moment bitching about them and work with them as best we can. It is righteously amazing to me how many people turned themselves into digital nomads under quarantine, and found a niche. Other nomads found out the opposite.

So many of us past sixty aren’t motivated to document every single move, every meal, every bowel movement for public consumption. If you will forgive the crassness of the comment, and I don’t care if you don’t, the point is that that’s not particularly compelling. However, there are some of those people who are doing pretty damned interesting things who deserve a spotlight if for no other reason than a) they aren’t eagerly seeking one, which makes such efforts somehow a little suspect, and b) the fact that they don’t need public validation for what they’re doing often means that they are living very sincerely, rather than trying ever so hard to act out a certain lifestyle for gain. As in, fake influencers.

My influencers are people like Ivana, doing what they do out of love of life and self-expression.

What matters, to me at least, is that in the best possible way we take what life has handed us and work with it. Life handed me a solo journey, no family, no kids. I could spend a shitton of time complaining about how lonely that is. Or, as I have done, I could learn to love my solitude, turn those trajectories into trampolines. I’m not going to sell you on the idea it’s easy. Of course it isn’t. You and I have to forfeit something to get something.

There are so very many everyday folks living terrific lives that have nothing to do with being rich. Or being famous. Or being young and beautiful. They are, quite simply, courageous enough to grab life by the balls, take what comes and shriek Hallelujah into the teeth of the wind.

What this looks like to you is as unique as your fingerprint. What I want for you is to be inspired by folks grinning into the gales past sixty. Lot of us out there. Lot of us living loud, hard, hale and hearty. You might not hear much about us because sadly, it takes a lot of time and energy to have some asshole follow us around with a camera. That’s energy and cost which, for my adventure dollar, I’d prefer to spend on a few more days galloping my horse across the African plains.

But that’s just me.

Photo by Harshil Gudka / Unsplash