I Want to Be Remembered for the Life I Lived, Not the Money I Made

I NEVER KNOW what I will find, what I’ll feel or how I’ll change, from leaving what I know to wander.

After an evening of exploration through neighborhoods of Lisbon I hadn’t yet been, I sat on the marble steps of the Luís de Camões statue in Praça Luís de Camões, watching the world go by.

The square pays homage to Portugal’s 16th-century literary giant, who eternalized the spirit of Portugal in his epic poem, The Lusiads.

With my camera draped around my neck, I laid back on the statue and looked around. I wonder why I’m doing this — what’s called me to embark on this solitary journey.

Every time I ask, it seems the answer finds me.

It’s different every time. When I ask why, I’m in a new environment, in a novel present, a shifted reality from where I’ve been.

I glanced around at passing couples holding hands, groups of friends drinking beers, families on vacation. There are so many people in this world, each one an individual with similar feelings, dreams, fears and questions.

Yet they’re brought to life in different ways — that makes us who we are — human beings.

Faces, individuals pass me by, and I know nothing of their story. They know nothing of mine. There’s a beautiful mystery in that — two passing souls with an underlying depth, yet we only see what’s on the surface, like looking to the sea. Still, what’s on the surface can be deceiving.

We never truly know what exists beneath.

The day had been emotional, fueled by an incredibly moving video and existential questionings of meaning and death, success and purpose, and what it means to be alive.

The journey brought me to these steps, where, in a way, I found some answers.

What does one gain from time alone? Perhaps a deeper sense of self; more time to think about what life might mean; the valuable experience of learning how to be alone.

Like any great city, Lisbon is a form of art in motion. I could sit on these steps for hours, in parks, on a bench, just watching life take place.

The beautifully tiled light blue steps which weave throughout the city have seen the ages shift; they evoke the color of the ocean in the summer and have felt the waves of progress, expansion, revolution, destruction. They’ve felt the steps towards peace.

I suppose this is why I’m here, to think about the steps as I take each one. Every stone on which I step gives me something in return — a reason to continue, earth beneath my feet.

My outing began with the setting sun; the day was beautiful and warm, so I waited for the night to cool before taking to the hills. Earlier in the day I was folding laundry in the hostel common room, watching the music videos which play through the day.

I love setting my own vibe, so when new guests come through the doors I hope they feel at home.

A song came on that I may have heard over the years, but I’d never seen the video, The Nights, by the Swedish DJ and musician, Tim Bergling, known as Avicii.

The video begins with a voiceover by photographer and filmmaker Rory Kramer, who composed the video in which he travels the world and lives life to the fullest, set to Avicii’s inspiring lyrics.

“When I was sixteen, my father said you can do anything you want with your life,” Kramer says, “you just have to be willing to work hard to get it. That’s when I decided when I die, I want to be remembered by the life I lived, not the money I made.”

This statement woke me up, yet the song hadn’t begun. Tim Bergling died in 2018 at the age of 28 in an apparent suicide. I’d heard about his death over the years, but had never listened closely to any of his music or considered myself a major fan.

I knew his death shook the world, as he was one of, if not the biggest name producing electronic music. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched and listened.

“One day, my father, he told me
‘Son, don’t let it slip away,’
He took me in his arms, I heard him say
‘When you get older
Your wild heart will live for younger days
Think of me if ever you’re afraid.’

He said, ‘One day, you’ll leave this world behind
So live a life you will remember.’”

Perhaps being wildly successful gave Tim Bergling the means to essentially do whatever he wanted in this world — yet deep down in his soul, something wasn’t okay. His family released a statement after his death, saying:

“Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions. An over-achieving perfectionist who travelled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress. When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be able to be happy and to do what he loved most — music. He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness.”

I can’t begin to fathom the meaning of life, death, what it means to lose the will to live. I get chills watching the video again, and maybe that’s why we’re on this earth.

To feel something, human connection, a will to go on together. I think about my own dad, and how unbelievably grateful I am to have a family that believes in me.

Maybe, just maybe, these words can give another soul the encouragement they need to live — to fucking live.

There is no secret to success in this life; but why is it we want to be successful?

We’re led to believe that success will bring those things which we desperately crave — connection, love, meaning, happiness. Maybe it can, and maybe it can’t, yet there’s something far deeper than material success which makes us human.

I believe that’s why I’m here, to continue seeking what that is, a life worth remembering, a life worth living.

This song, the words, the power and simple profundity behind them, they impacted me greatly. I’m so damn thankful for that. I finished folding and set out into the night, to live a life I’ll look back on with a smile. Hopefully, it’ll make others smile too.

Rest in peace Tim Bergling, Avicii. ❤️‍🔥

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