CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Although I never got to meet Val Patterson, I like the guy. He seemed like someone who got all the fun he could out of life.
And even some out of death.
Paterson recently lost his battle with throat cancer, and his self-written obituary went viral thanks in part to his hilarious confessions. Among the 59-year-old's admissions was that his Ph.D. from the University of Utah came by way of a clerical error that resulted in him mistakenly receiving a diploma in the mail when, in reality, he had not even completed enough school for an undergraduate degree.
Wrote Patterson in his obit, "To all the Electronic Engineers I have worked with, I'm sorry, but you have to admit my designs always worked well."
His only regret seemed to be not having more time with his wife. Patterson said he'd managed to travel everywhere he ever wanted to go, have every job he wanted to have, learn all he wanted to know, fixed everything he wanted to fix, eat everything he wanted to eat.
Reading his obituary reminded me of one of my all-time favorite quotes.
"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, Champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, 'Woo-hoo! What a ride!'"
That's how I want to go out some day. No whimper. All bang.
The thing is, I've always been such a conservative person. I've spent my entire life dotting i's, crossing t's. My list of "I've nevers" is likely longer than that of your average 18-year-old.
Back in June, I wrote about my determination to begin taking more risks. I made a pledge (albeit quietly, to myself) to do one thing every day that scares me. Most of the time, I've found that one thing has been to speak my mind.
It was difficult at first. I'm a quiet person. I have a tendency to defer to others, supposing they know better than me. Breaking away from that old habit of mind isn't easy, but what I'm learning is that the more I force myself to do the things that scare me, the more difficult it becomes to find scary things. In a very short time, my world has become a less frightening place.
During an online conversation on the subject with my friend Lee Maynard, he mentioned the distinction he draws between feeling fear and being afraid.