As a young boy, Johnny enjoyed nothing more than playing outdoors, and wandering through the wilderness. He enjoyed allowing his imagination to roam freely. The world of trees and insects, of salamanders and garter snakes, this was where his heart rest. Yet, every day after school, he was made to come straight home.
“Do your homework and study really hard Johnny,” his parents used to tell him, “Then you will get good grades, enter into a really good high school, and you will soon be happy.”
Johnny listened to them, and every day, straight after school, he returned home to study so that he could get good grades, go to a good high school, and then be happy.
The years passed, and Johnny entered high school. He had excelled in his earlier years of school, and was noted as a gifted child, and a top scholar. Now that he was in high school, rather than spending time with the trees, Johnny enjoyed hanging out with his friends. However, his parents and teachers used to always tell him: “Johnny focus your energy on your studies. If you get good grades, and do well in high school, then you will be able to attend your university of choice, and this will make you truly happy.”
So Johnny listened to them, he spent little time with his friends, and instead he focused intensely on his studies, in order that he may achieve good grades, go to university, and then be happy.
The years passed, and Johnny had now entered university. If he thought that he had studied a lot in high school, university was another ballgame altogether. While in university, Johnny discovered the joy of painting. Painting had become his passion, and many a time he would imagine all of the great paintings that would procure from his brush in his lifetime. He had a great talent for painting and was certain that he was a long lost descendent of none other than Pablo Picasso himself.
Yet, his parents and professors continued to tell him: “Johnny, focus on your studies, work hard, get good grades, and you will be able to get a really good job, and make a handsome salary. Then you will certainly be happy.”
A voice in his heart was now beginning to stir, and this voice told him that certainly his parents and his professors were wrong. This voice told him that he should enjoy living in the present moment and, in addition to his studies, he should focus on painting and doing that which he loved. This voice told him to seize the day.
While this inner voice could be quite convincing at times, ultimately it was simply irrational. Johnny knew that, certainly, his parents and professors must be right, so he continued to work hard, and he graduated from university with honours, and at the top of his class. He knew that he would get a really good job and now, certainly, he would be happy.
Upon graduation from university, Johnny received a high paying job with an insurance company. The days were long but the pay was well worth it, plus, he was young and he could afford to work the extra hours. What did he have to lose? After several years of working at the insurance company, Johnny got married. He and his wife bought a house and took out a mortgage, and soon enough children were born.
Johnny excelled in his new position, continued to work long days, and to see little of his wife and his children. Everyone around him praised Johnny, and they all had wonderful plans for his future. His partners and employers, his family and friends, they were all full of encouragement and would say: “Johnny you are doing a great job! Keep up the good work, soon you will be able to retire and then you will be happy.”
The years passed, and Johnny had now retired from his job at the insurance company. His children had grown up and they were beginning to have children of their own. Gradually, a silent and almost forgotten voice within the depths of Johnny’s heart began to speak to him again. Johnny recognized it as the same voice that told him to paint when he was in university. The voice was faint and difficult to understand, so Johnny once more forgot about it, and he now began attending church regularly with his wife.
When at the service, Johnny would gaze around at the other people in the church, and he noticed that it was mostly full of the elderly, many of which were his friends. Johnny wondered why the younger generation wasn’t here in attendance at church. One day, after the service was over, Johnny was talking to some of his friends. Then, one of his best friends, a retired police officer, began telling him: “Johnny, it’s great that since you have retired you have begun coming to church. This way when you die, then you will go to Heaven and you will most certainly be happy!”
At those words Johnny’s inner voice rose from its long, dormant coma and erupted like a latent volcano. Johnny realized that he had wasted his life; he had wasted the many, all too precious years in pursuit of a sense of happiness that was always just out of reach. He had been pursuing a fleeting sense of happiness that was always waiting around the next corner.
“Please excuse me,” Johnny said to his wife and friends, “but I have to go for a walk… alone.”
Johnny walked until he reached the cemetery at the edge of town, and, as if possessed by some powerful magical force, he kept walking until he reached a grave that was sheltered by a maple tree and upon which the sun was shining through the branches of the maple. Johnny looked closely at the tombstone, and utterly shocked, realized that the grave that he now stood before was his very own. Written on the tombstone was a strange inscription that consisted of two words wholly unfamiliar to him, the inscription on the grave read Carpe Diem.
Young Johnny woke up in a fright, he had been tossing and turning all night; however, he was glad to realize that it had all been a nightmare, but a strange dream. He was thankful that he now woke up as the same young boy that enjoyed wandering through the wilderness, and playing with salamanders and garter snakes. He had, immediately, almost entirely forgotten the dream except for one small part of it that had lingered, hovering just at the surface of his conscious mind.
The next day at school, Johnny entered the classroom and sat down at his desk. He gazed up at the chalkboard before him and written in large, bold letters were two words Carpe Diem. With these two words the entire dream returned to him, flooded his entire being, and served as a forewarning that he must not let his life slip away into the ocean of regret, and unfulfilled promise, he must seize the day. Johnny sighed, and then smiled. Today was the most important day of his life.