When I was nineteen I accompanied my friend, Abbott, to the tattoo shop. He was getting his family crest on his arm and it was going to take a while. I kept him company. I remember the sound of the place and the traffic passing by on the busy street outside. I remember his first winces until he became used to the steady pricking at his arm. And I can remember that we laughed a lot that day. But the only topic I can specifically recall us talking about was how profound it was to willingly put a mark on your body that would follow you to your grave.
Life is fabulously simple when you’re nineteen. Back then I knew exactly what I wanted out of life. I was an actress and it was all that I wanted to do. I thought that I might get married someday to some one dark and artistic, but no kids, thank you very much. I would travel the world. I knew my own mind and there was no one that could tell me different. Abbott was off to play football at UNLV.
But then life came at me quick, just as it does to most people. Years passed, and I fell out of touch with most of the friends that I’d had when I was nineteen. A few, like Abbott, I regret, but most I can look back now and see that we either outgrew our friendship or were never all that good for each other in the first place. I met a man who made me laugh and feel good about myself, and that ended up being far more important than anything else. I fell out of love with the theatre and in love with the stories in my head. I still wanted to travel but now had to figure out how to do it while juggling a day job and two kids. Life didn’t look a thing like the plan I’d had when I was nineteen.
Looking back, I can’t imagine what my life would like if all of my nineteen-year-old dreams had come true. That’s not entirely true. What I mean to say is, I can’t imagine me happy if those dreams had come true. I seized different days than I thought I would. I said yes to things my teenage self never could have imagined agreeing to, and no when my heart didn’t line up with my head’s vision of the future.
I was in a pub when I found out that Abbott had died. An old friend who worked there told me. Car accident. His memorial service was filled stories of all the things he’d done since I’d seen him last. He’d mastered kung fu and become a vegan. Wow, didn’t see that coming. He lived a short, brilliant, beautiful life. And while I’m sorry that I only got to share a little of it with him, the truth is when we walked out of that tattoo studio that day fifteen years ago, he and I just choose to seize different days.