Did I Do This Right?

Max Stainton
December 9, 2019

The students here always say that they’re having a great time. Last weekend was always the best of their lives, expect for next weekend of course— that’ll be even better. Everyone is always a little behind on work, spending a little too much money, sleeping several hours too few but reminding all of their new acquaintances how incredible their lives are.

I live in constant fear that I’m doing it wrong, that I’m not taking advantage of all the opportunities that have been given so generously and so undeservingly to me. Should I see Florence or Auschwitz or the the Pyrenees mountains? Should I focus on my grades or should I enjoy the uniqueness of this moment? Should I be applying for jobs after graduation or cherishing the last months of college? Should I practice piano, read a book, watch a movie or call my mom? Should I tour the contemporary art museum or the Estrella brewery, the old Olympic stadium or the botanical gardens, the magic fountain or the pier? 

Kierkegaard says, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” It’s the realization that we have an infinite number of ways to spend our time, money, energy, and love, and that we can’t possibly do all of them, that we have to pick and choose, and that no matter how admirable our choices may be, we’ll always have to live with the knowledge that a better choice existed and we missed it, that there is a morally, logically, and hedonistically best way to use what we have and that the likelihood of choosing that path is infinitesimal. Anxiety doesn’t come from knowing that we can do whatever we want. It comes from knowing that we have to. And the clock is ticking. 

These are our lives, our first, last, and only lives. How should we spend them? We must deliberate thoroughly and not merely follow the crowd; that yields the easiest result, not the best. However, if we get stuck deliberating and never decide, we’ve made the worst choice of all. We’ve wasted the entirety of our freedom, and all of our anxiety has amounted to nothing. We must choose. We must choose and be prepared to fail with the simple hope that our best is good enough. Now is the time to make bold decisions, to eat ox tail and tour bull rings, to feed the homeless and teach English to Romanian children, to swim half a mile with a shoulder broken in three places, to run through the streets with flaming necromancers and dance in their sparks. Now is the time to embrace living, whether abroad or at home, no matter how little time is left. 

And now my time is over. done. cut off. finished. And I’m left with a longing for more, not knowing if I’ll be back or when or for how long, only that I’ve had what I’ve had and that I’m grateful but grieving for the journey has died, full of youthful hope and beauty, taken before her time. I lament for the death of an adventure. 


Lament for the Death of an Adventure 

A Psalm of Maxwell


Lament, lament for all the things I could not do, for all the immaculate beauties I could not behold, for all the endeavors I could not undertaken. 

Lament for all the tapas I couldn’t taste, the wine I couldn’t sip, the gelato I couldn’t lick; for the concerts I missed to do homework and the tests I botched to watch sunsets; for the waves I could not surf, the mountains I could not hike, the symphonies I could not hear. 

Lament for the splendors I never gazed upon: for Rome, for Warsaw, for the Alps, for the Basque Country, for El Camino de Santiago.

Lament for the beggars to whom I didn’t give a nickel, jingling cups on every corner; for the ones whom I did, but nothing more; for the soup kitchen I volunteered at only twice, the grade school only once. 

Lament for all the time I spent moping, pensive and aloof in an erudite cloud of moralized superciliousness, assaying, appraising, and chiding my peers, my school, or the local cultural shortcomings instead of reveling in the magic of the moment. 

Lament for the time that is passing, will pass, has already passed, before I could grab a hold of it, just as I was beginning to understand, the moment I’d discovered all people and places and things I would see the next chance I get. 

Praise and thanksgiving for the possibility of a return voyage across the great blue barrier; for my first European tour, my first flirtation with a foreign life, my first international home. 


Lament, praise, and thanksgiving for Barcelona. 


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Max Stainton

<p>I'm a nerdy adrenaline-junkie with a guilty conscience. I love reading dusty books and practicing piano, I don't count it as an adventure unless there is a possibility of death, and I volunteer compulsively. Oh, and I'm weirdly good at foosball.</p>

2019 Fall
Home University:
Wake Forest University
Cincinnati, OH
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