My friend, who I went to high school with, did not have a birthday today. He should have. He should have been 45, the same age I will be in a few short weeks. He didn’t die from a drug overdose, or suicide, or anything that was his fault. He was a Marine, an avid rock climber, and a good husband and father. He had cancer.

He fought the brain tumor bravely. For several years. The cancer even went into remission. But it came back, and he lost the final fight a couple of years ago. It hit me had, not because we were close. But because he was my age. I graduated high school with him. His death seemed unfair, and reminded me of my own mortality.

Every year now, Facebook reminds me of his birthday. Tons of people still write on his wall that day, remembrances and reminders of his life, and those he touched. Instead, I choose to remember, and keep on living, and doing what I love. Here are some lessons for all of us.

“It’s not dying I’m afraid of,” a friend said the other day. “It’s not being alive that bothers me the most.”

uncle-sam-stop-whiningQuit whining. Whatever it is that keeps you from doing the work that following your dream entails, stop whining about it and find a way to conquer it. If you are battling cancer, and facing chemo and a handful of pills every morning, if a tumor is growing in your head you know will kill you eventually, you have an excuse. I’m sure there are others equally valid. But look carefully at what your current hardship is. The reason you are not doing the things you wish you were. Get past it, while you still can.

Stop being afraid. “It’s not dying I’m afraid of,” a friend said the other day. “It’s not being alive that bothers me the most.” How many people do you know that aren’t really alive? Why? Fear. The unknown is hard to face, the sacrifice of what society tells us is security for real happiness a scary thing. Because you will be departing from the norm, if there is such a thing. Here is my answer for that: who cares? When the end comes it is unlikely you will go to your grave grateful you got the latest offering from Apple. You’ll be grateful you followed your heart, and had a chance to really live.

Breathe. Look around at the beauty of the now. I’ve found regardless of your belief system, living in the present is a common theme, and though difficult it does pay off. We dream, but it is best if we are doing what we love now, rather than waiting for an elusive someday, or even worse, tomorrow. If you aren’t, look at why.

I’m not trying to diminish your pain. Or your reasons for what you do or don’t do. Hell, I’ve used all of your excuses, and as a creative writer, come up with some doozies of my own. They all seem valid at the time. But when you honestly look at how short life is, breathe, set aside your fear, and quit whining, you’ll get busy doing what you love, and start really living.

My friend would have had another birthday today. Except he didn’t. Because he isn’t here. He has no more birthdays. Someday none of us will. Do what you love now. Otherwise you might be one year older by the time you do.

Or you may never get the chance.