What Do You Want on Your Tombstone?

This semester in college I am taking one of the best classes I have ever had. The title of the class is “Wild and Angry Literature”. The basis of the class is studying and emulating wild and angry literature and the strategies that these authors use. The professor teaches and talks about many awesome topics and encourages all of his students to not conform to “norms”. He wants all of us to live our life in a way that pleases us.

In a recent class discussion we were discussing some of the short stories of Rick Bass. If you haven’t read Rick Bass, I’d recommend giving it a try. He’s wild, crazy, a little irreverent, and takes a lot of risks. But his stories show you how to live a vigorous life filled with random adventures and genuine vitality. We talked about what we would want on our tombstone. Our teacher posed us this question: Do you want your tombstone to say “He got a great ACT score because he studied” or “He conformed to suburban life”? Or do you want it to say “He was always getting stuck in the mud, laughed a lot, found adventure everywhere and appreciated life”?

I’ve been thinking a lot about taking risks and doing something that others might call crazy. I don’t want to be that person who just conforms to an average house with an average car and an average job. I want to do the things that others might be afraid to try or do things that seem different, crazy, scary or weird. I want to take risks and enjoy my successes and laugh at my failures.

I want my tombstone to say that I found adventures, that I took risks, that I did things that my friends and family thought were weird or crazy. When people gather around my grave I want to listen in and hear hundreds of stories that start with “Do you remember that time when Nathan did this or that? That was so awesome!” I don’t want to be mediocre or average or conform to what society thinks I ought to be doing.

Living a simple life leaves room for adventure, passion, risk-taking and rising above the average. When we cut out the junk, the things we don’t love, the commitments that leave us tired and frustrated, the clutter that saps our time and the activities that leave us unfulfilled, we find the time to be amazing and do amazing things. That’s what I intend to do. That’s the path that I have chosen. Will you join me?

1 Comment

  • It’s incredible how powerful the tombstone exercise is! I work with nonprofits and associations on branding, and we ask them this very same question, but thinking about it for their organization. It always forces them to strip away all the company politics and immediate concerns and think big, so I love that you’re thinking about this in college!

    We definitely don’t want a conventional life for ourselves, and are focused on making our non-traditional path happen. Your vision sounds fantastic. 🙂