“A sailor spends his life
living stories to tell.”
I’ve come to believe you are truly old when you have more stories to tell than things left to do. It is not that I’ve finished my bucket list, but I have done much more – not always well – than I still dream of or am able to do.
I keep a board littered with Post-It notes containing things I’d like to do before I am done. I have a few more sailing trips to tick off, but the list of museums to see is growing longer, although more than a few are about sailing and boats.
The point I meant to make, before I digressed into that story, was that I’m beginning to understand that I don’t have any answers to life’s hard questions, only anecdotes: stories to tell. One of the first things they teach in law school is that the answer to every question is, “It depends.” I still teach law school, and I am more and more uncertain what to say when asked questions by students who are trying to make decisions about their careers and the lives they have ahead.
When asked how I decided to join an honored, though often seen as less than honorable, profession, I’m left with only my own story to tell. In my senior year of High School, some friends said they were going to UGA and that I should come too and join the party. I asked what I would study, and they answered, “You should be a lawyer, you would be great!” After the student laughs a little and rolls his eyes, I say, “I suppose the moral of the story is that sometimes the decision is less about making the right choice, than doing what it takes to make it the right one.”
When my son was the same age, he asked me to help with his calculus homework. It was the first time I’d ever had no idea how to help, and while I was summoning the humility to admit I didn’t know, I had a thought. “Well, if you were trying to teach this to someone,” I said, “how would you do it?” Fortunately, he took the bait – hook, line and barrel, or perhaps it was lock, stock and sinker. Whatever, it was at that moment that I sensed what I’ve come to know too well: the closest thing I have to good advice are stories to share. What you glean from them will be your own wisdom, someday to share in your own tales.
And about the title, look it up. When all else is said, try Socrates.