It happened every Friday morning. With steaming thermoses in hand, a few university friends and I would hike up a nearby hill to eat breakfast outside, watch the sunrise, and talk about life. One such morning, as we observed the city awaking below, I remember posing a question which I’d been asking different people lately:
“If you could have a million dollars now, or an extra year of quality life — like, if God were to take the number of years He’s prepared for you and add a bonus one — which option would you choose? How would you spend a million dollars worth a year of life or a year of life worth a million dollars?”
It was one of those questions with no right answer; it just lent a little insight into what people [value]. So many people I’d talked with earlier had gone for the million, I began second-guessing my own inclination to choose the year.
“If I did choose the year,” I reasoned aloud to my hiking friends, however, “I would value time more for the rest of my life. I’d set better priorities.”
The hikers opted for the year too. So did my parents, who are so in love that they just wanted more time together. They said a million dollars wouldn’t make them any richer.
Soon after these conversations, I started wondering: if this year were my extra one, worth a million dollars, how would I live differently?
For starters, I’d pray more.
And I’d worry less.
I’d get up earlier, watch more sunrises, spend more time with people, and make more memories.
So — why not?
The New Year was rocketing towards me, and graduation with it. I had no idea what the year would hold, but wherever God placed me — even if only back at my usual summer job — I wanted to make sure I’d be living intentionally.
So, I set a goal to write down 1000 memories in one year.
It sounded easy enough. At an average rate of just three memories a day, 1000 memories should be possible to capture through a little creativity, a few tweaks to my daily routine, and a bit more attention to the moments which make up life. Right?
Determined to find out, I started searching for every day’s ‘moments.’ Most mornings, I’d set an alarm for six, catch the early bus, take my ukulele to a hill or beach, and spend time outside with God before class.
“To think that I almost missed this by hitting snooze!” I remember thinking on more than one such occasion, when a brilliant sunrise transformed the ocean to molten gold.
Later in the afternoons, I’d pack a load of textbooks and go study on a beach, under a tree, or at a fancy hotel lobby instead of just working at a desk. Then if I met friends in the evening, I’d often tell them about the 1000 memory goal, to become more openly intentional about spending time together.
And so, day by day, moment by moment, the memories started accumulating.
Some memories were really little things: studying in my [favorite] coffee shop, running into an old friend, or feeling great about finishing an assignment. A few were fabulous, flashbulb-blinded memories, like crossing the graduation stage or riding a limo for the first time [at] a friend’s wedding. And some memories were downright epic, like when I boarded a one-way flight in autumn to backpack and blog about Christian students’ experiences at secular universities around the world. From the unbearable ticklishness of koala toes in my side, to the glimmering splendor of Tokyo’s lights after dark, to the exhilaration of leaping into a waterfall in the Philippines, the following days brought memories I never want to forget.
Three Ingredients for Great Memories:
Whether at home or abroad, however, I learned that many of the best memories include at least one of three simple ingredients. Spending quality time with others, whether humans or God, is the first ingredient. The second is taking more notice of life’s everyday wonders, like starlight or soap bubbles or the [color] of sunlight on grass. It’s about experiencing our Father’s world the way a kid might, unwrapping the joy latent in everything from dandelion seeds to bubble wrap. Finally, the third ingredient for creating ‘keeper’ memories is to add novel twists to normal life.