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The Anti-Ghost: Living a Centimeter Away from Death

A gun was pressed to the back of the male gas station attendant’s head as he whimpered.

He was comfortable just moments ago as he stood at the counter of the sketchy-looking convenience store while working the night shift.

Suddenly, within the span of two minutes, his life was flashing before his eyes.

All of his dreams.

All of his ambitions.

Everything he wanted but never tried to accomplish because he didn’t have the discipline.

Because he didn’t have the belief.

Now, he’d certainly never have any of it.

“What’d you study”, gently asked the man holding the gun.

With his eyes tightly shut and tears rolling down his cheeks, the gas station attendant mumbled an unintelligible answer, still terrified that his life was about to come to a loud and sudden halt.

“I asked what you studied! What’d you want to be?”

The assailant grew frustrated.

He wanted a clear and concise answer.

“The question, Raymond. What did you want to be?”

The assailant pressed the gun closer to the back of Raymond’s head.

Raymond could feel the cold steel of the gun dig into his head.

He sensed the man was about to pull the trigger at any moment.

“A veterinarian”, Raymond shrieked.

“So, you need more schooling?”

“Too much schooling.”

“So, you’d rather be dead? Here, on your knees, in the back of a convenience store?”

The man, who was commonly referred to as Tyler, put his gun away calmly.

He took Raymond’s wallet and pulled out his ID before tossing the wallet back at Raymond.

“I’m keeping your license. I’m going to check in on you. I know where you live. If you’re not on your way to becoming a Veterinarian in six weeks, you’ll be dead. Now, run along”.

Without hesitation, Raymond stood up and sprinted away in a panic.

He was partially confused and partially relieved.

He wasn’t dead. He had another chance at life.

Tyler watched as Raymond ran off.

“Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal I’ve ever tasted”.

Many people settle for things that they don’t truly want.

Whether it’s due to fear or due to a lack of confidence, I think we ultimately cheapen our time by not taking action and settling in life.

Often, I note that I believe people ghost through life.

When asked about their goals or ambitions, they can never provide a direct answer.

Likely, it’s because the person hasn’t thought through what their goals would be.

They take life one day at a time, often times on repeat.

Raymond was ghosting through life.

Surely his life’s goal wasn’t to become a gas station attendant.

Clearly, he had something else in mind that he wished to do.

However, at some point, he began to let his foot off of the pedal.

He began to settle into a life of routine. He became comfortable with doing the bare minimum.

He adapted to not stretching himself with regards to his daily actions.

While he could have gone back to school, he described it as “too much”.

Aristotle once said that, “We are what we repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence is not an act, but a habit”.

Raymond created a habit of doing the bare minimum.

I once theorized that most people, when deeply impacted by their habits, can only change when exposed to a severe enough stimulus — trauma. Assuming Raymond was scared enough and believed Tyler’s threats, he’d likely have a huge shift in perspective due to what I call a peak emotional incident.

The fortunate part is that he’d make the needed shift.

The unfortunate part is that he needed to believe he was on the verge of death to do so.

The scene given at the beginning of this essay paints an interesting picture.

Many of us are Raymond.

We choose not to live up to our true potential and chase what we’re truly after.

Instead, we condemn ourselves to our bad habits.

Whether he’d ever think much of it or not, Raymond was lucky. He was lucky that there was a pattern-interrupt on his life that would force him to break his bad habits and value his life.

Hopefully, we can all take Raymond’s lead without needing a stranger to put a gun to our head.

~The excerpt at the beginning of this essay is from the film version of the 1999 movie Fight Club directed by David Fincher and written by Chuck Palahniuk

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