The word actually tastes disgusting. You kind of have to spit it out.
The first time I heard this word, I was watching what is now one of my favorite movies: Secondhand Lions. As an angst-ridden, moody teenager, I really identified well with crabby old men.
One of those old men uttered a line that has followed me around since it first reached my ears.
“Nothing sadder than a couple of has-beens jabbering about the good old days.”
This line tormented me for years because I knew eventually that’s what I would end up saying. That’s what I would become. One day I’d be some white-haired man watching the Weather Channel.
Regardless of what I accomplished or tried or did, the best I could hope for myself was to become a question on Jeopardy.
And nobody puts a lifetime of achievement in perspective like Alex Trebek. That clever twerp, reducing mankind’s greatest hopes, dreams, and accomplishments to some clever play on words that is casually tossed aside in 30 seconds the next question.
For a long time, I struggled with meaning. I wondered what the point anything was.
Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe you hear that insistent voice which says things like:
Getting that project done won’t matter long-term.
It doesn’t matter if you finish your book, it won’t be a classic.
Who cares what you do? People won’t remember you.
If you are at all like me, you tend to see too much of “the big picture”. You bypass the here and now and instead, see yourself as a tiny, insignificant speck on the timeline of humankind somewhere between the dinosaurs and flying cars. (Still waiting, Google)
But here’s something I’ve come to know, and you should take this to heart too:
It’s a lot harder to be a has-been than a could-have-been.
Barring some early death, I’m eventually going to be sitting on a rocking chair with white hair. So will you.
The decisions you make now, though, will determine the conversations you have with people on that front porch.
There are essentially two directions those conversations can go:
You will complain about never having the time, money, or help to do the things you were completely capable of doing back then. There were so many things you could have done, if only you’d gotten “a break.”
There were so many things you could have been.
You will smile, comfortable in the knowledge that, even if the actions in your past don’t matter now, it mattered then. It mattered to you. It mattered to those around you.
You see, the has-been, even though he is past his prime, is a shining beacon of what it means to live a full life.
The could-have-been is a bitter, angry person, who will descend to his coffin with nothing but regret.
Which one do you want to be?
If you enjoyed this, I would really love if you’d hit that Recommend button down there. It makes me feel all warm when people do that.