By Heather Munro
Heather Munro is a Minneapolis-based photographer and writer.
As I get older, milestones become more important. Some of them — like birthdays — mark the passage of time. Others make me think about the future.
This month it will be two and a half years since I was told I have a brain tumor.
I've tried hard not to let it be the thing that defines me, the thing that shapes my life. But the knowledge has changed me irrevocably.
In some ways, it's been a gift: A little whiff of mortality can be a powerful aphrodisiac. Everything seems more meaningful and more poignant. Seeing what might kill me has made me feel more alive.
But in other ways, it's been paralyzing. I've put off making some plans for the future. Every decision has come with a quiet but insistent bass line: "What if, what if, what if?"
I hadn't realized until recently just how much I'd surrendered to my fears.
The first wake-up call came via Skype. I told my friend Jan, "I wish I could live in Europe, if only for a while." He replied, "So why don't you burn your house and come over?"
The second wake-up call came over sushi. "I want to travel more and spend more time taking photos," I told my friend Todd. He replied, "Sometimes you've gotta burn down the house and just go."
And the third wake-up call came as I was trying to distract myself from a crippling headache.
"What if 2012 were your last year, your last chance at leaving your mark or doing something great or crossing out every item on your bucket list?" began the post at Olivier Blanchard's BrandBuilder blog.
He wrote: "What if you went another year without writing that book you've been thinking about for a decade? What if you went another year without taking that trip to Paris or Moscow or Sydney you've been dreaming about your whole life? What if you went another year waiting to launch your startup? ... Here's what I've learned in the last few years: There's no such thing as the right time. All we really ever have is now. Now is the right time. ... Whatever needs doing, do it now. Today."
In other words, stop being so afraid and just burn down the house already.
Obviously, I'm not about to literally grab the matches. But I've decided that today is the best day of my life. And this is my year to shine.