Ask Kate is my advice column for people who want to be badasses.
I have a unique perspective on living that folks I meet tell me is inspiring. I prioritize joy, gratitude, helping others, and having fun every single day.
People have changed careers, gone on trips, quit their jobs, started writing, launched businesses and one guy even told me he accomplished his #1 bucket list item of having a threesome -- all at least in part by being inspired by my lifestyle and philosophies (yeah, man, I have philosophies).
Feeling stuck? Wondering which brand of yogurt to purchase? Want to know how to travel on the cheap? Ask away -- and help inspire others in the process.
What's on your mind? Submit your question.
This is a forum in which you can ask ANONYMOUS questions and get straight shootin'-you might die tomorrow answers from yours truly.
I'll never forget it. The date was July 11, 2015. I was sitting in a café in Austin, and BANG! It hit me like a bolt of lightning.
Prior to that day, I had been dealing with some very real and disruptive fears of dying. It was taking over my life: I'd think about dying as I crossed every intersection, I'd imagine (kind of like a daymare) that I got a call that my mom had died or that my then-husband wouldn't be coming home, and I'd spend inordinate quantities of time thinking about whether anyone would find out if I died or show up to my memorial. It was affecting my sleep, my mood, and causing a lot of stress. In short: it f*cking sucked.
That day in the café, I had this epic realization: I have absolutely no control over when or how I die, but I have complete control of how I live until that moment comes.
When that lightbulb went off for me -- when I finally embraced the aspect of mortality that sets you free -- my entire life changed for the better. I have never lived more vibrantly. I don't know that I could say it better than Steve Jobs:
See, life is hard. And can seem absurdly complex. But when you remember you're going to die and you have no idea when, life becomes simple. You'll start to live more in the present moment. You'll hesitate less to tell people you love them. You'll realize that enjoying yourself is as good a life's purpose as any. I'm pretty certain you'll notice more often how damn beautiful the sky can be.
So, the realization that I could die tomorrow, or next week, or in five or fifty years has made me a more joyful and exuberant person, and I write on this website, print stickers, and work on books to share it with you, my friend, in hopes you can live like you might die tomorrow, too.
kate the great
Question #3: June 16, 2017
First, we must let the people know that you found my website via Tinder. I mean, You Might Die Tomorrow does not have her own Tinder profile, but I mention my website on my human profile. So, while I believe this is a tongue-in-cheek question, serious matters like wishing one was dead cannot be assumed to be jokes.
Please understand that most people have felt the way you feel now. Most often, people want to die for three reasons:
- They haven't created meaning in their life
- They suffer from chronic and debilitating emotional or physical pain
- They have done something for which they have been unable to forgive themselves
The only antidote I can think of for wanting to die is perspective. Perspective, my friend, is a helluva drug.
There are 7.5 billion people in the world today. It is estimated that one hundred and seven billion people have lived since the beginning of human history. The highs and lows we experience are reflected over and over through time and space. They are what make us human. Everything has already happened before, someone has done something worse than what you have done, all lows and feelings of meaninglessness have already been experienced by someone before you.
We are tiny organisms living on a comparatively small rock in a universe larger than human comprehension. You are going to die whether you want to or not. As long as you do not make the decision to take your own life, the only thing of which you are in control is how you live until that unknown time and circumstance comes. According to the philosopher Epictetus, "what disturbs men's minds is not events but their judgements on events.'
Be kind to yourself. Remember that most of life is ridiculous and hilarious and no one knows what the hell they are doing. Reframe negativity in your mind as opportunities for growth. If you can't find meaning in your life, make your life's purpose having fun. Reach out to someone you love and open up to them about how you feel. They may not respond how you want them to, but it might be cathartic to let go of the darkness or hopelessness you hold inside. And if you or anyone you know is considering taking their own life, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
When I was around thirteen, I took about forty Tylenol. I both wanted to die and also needed an outlet for my overwhelming despair. Today, I look back and my heart breaks for that sad teenager. I know now that everything which flows also ebbs: joy, love, despair...life. Nothing gold stays, Ponyboy. Like the gold, the blackness also fades. The hopelessness I felt then is minute compared to the insane gratitude and zeal for life that I possess today. Ironically, it was remembering that I am going to die which helped me truly live.
Question #2: May 4, 2017
First, you are a badass! Anyone that has the chutzpah to run off to a foreign country alone is a true adventurer.
I just got back from six months in Asia, so I think I can help.
First, just expect and accept that you will probably get scammed. I don't know how, or where, but it will probably happen. In Thailand, I would try to friendly bargain at the local market and they would reply, "No discount! This is the Thai person price!" Yes, that means there are two prices for all goods and services: actual cost for locals, and elevated cost for us foreigners. I don't like to worry too much about a few dollars here or there, especially when I'm traveling to impoverished countries. I figure they need the money more than I do. So, don't worry your pretty little head about it! It's going to happen, just be smart, do your best, roll with the punches, and keep a smile on your face.
I spent most of my time in Southeast Asia in Phuket, Thailand where I house and cat sat for two months in a little bungalow near Kamala beach. I know you went to Rishikesh in India; consider Phuket the Thai version of Rishikesh. Very touristy, massages everywhere, and a collection of travelers from all over the world. I wouldn't get misty eyed if I never made it back there.
- Go to Bagan, Myanmar. To me, it looks like the most incredible collection of temples in the world.
- Consider checking out Penang, Malaysia. I loved it: off the beaten tourist path, artsy, lots of open air bars and incredible street food.
- Everyone I know and their dog seems to be going to Vietnam. It looks beautiful and I've heard it's beautifully chaotic. If you ask me, I'd go just for the pho and spring rolls.
- Bali is hedonistic and stunning. I felt like my soul clicked a little more into alignment at Prana Veda yoga retreat in north Bali.
- Shit got real in Java, my first visit to 'real' Asia. I learned that Indonesians don't do black coffee, squat toilets are super real, and in Java, I'm Kim K. My image is on the camera rolls of somewhere in the neighborhood of three hundred Indonesian phones. But I can die happy having gone on a motorbike adventure to see Borobudur, one of the most magical places I have ever visited in my life.
As a solo female traveler, I felt totally safe. I used Tinder and met some questionable fellows. I used the Couchsurfing app to meet some fantastic Russian friends. I had a drunk Balinese man knock on my window and whisper to me in Bahasa Indonesia at midnight, but nothing serious. Unless he was trying to whisper to me that he was having a heart attack, in which case I probably killed him because I was frozen in fear inside of my mosquito net.
Go, have fun, and meet people. Eat all the things, and don't worry for a moment about carbs. And if you happen to go to the Via Via shop in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia, please pick me up a bottle of their rose essential oil. It's perfect.
kate the great
P.S. My dear friend and Indonesia traveling companion Daniel Dreifuss (the most incredible photographer I know) has just published a lovely coffee table photo book from his travels around Southeast Asia last year, entitled Frames from the Street: Southeast Asia.
A few of my snaps from Southeast Asia
Question #1: May 4, 2017
First, I'd like to offer you some sympathy for the anguish you have surely been experiencing on this touchy subject. It's a decision that has plagued humankind for eons. I think Socrates may have written on this very topic. But you didn't ask Socrates' opinion, you asked mine.
I have this thing I do I call 'deathbed regret avoidance.' When I'm faced with a decision I'm unsure about, I mentally put myself on my deathbed and consider how I'd feel at that moment, looking back on how I made the decision I'm facing now. If, in this conjured future state, I feel regret about having done or not done the thing I'm considering, I know that's not the way to go. Conversely, if I look back and feel good about my choice, bam! That's my green light.
If, on my deathbed, the lingering questions of my life are about tipping my carry out professional, I'd say I've done pretty well. It reminds me of the crazy year I had in college when I fantasized that all the white powder I had ever snorted would magically reappear on my pillow when I woke up one morning. Both scenarios are unlikely, but worth considering. So I thank you for submitting this question, to which I reply: yes, $1.
kate the great