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Bill Bergeman


Questions To Ask To Know if I’m Living a Worthwhile Life

It's 11:45 PM. I feel a thundering roar in my chest, my heart pounding so intensely that I'm certain I'm about to die.

I clutch my chest, desperately trying to remember all those television shows I've seen over the years that had someone experiencing a heart attack. I think of the father from the 80's television show "Family Ties." He had a heart attack on one episode. Is that what I'm feeling? Wasn't he younger than me on that show than I am now? How old is Michael J. Fox now? Is he still married to that same woman from that show after all these years?

Glimpses of the dream I just had dance in my memory in short bursts. I was being ostracized by friends who I no longer consider friends. I'm walking on a beach, questioning if everything I'm doing is wrong in life.

I pick up my phone and Google, "what does it feel like to have a heart attack." Hmm. No, no, no. Maybe I'm not dying.

I lay my phone down and stare into the dark, my hands still holding my heart as if they're the only thing preventing it from bursting through my chest. And then it happens. A warm, overwhelming glow washes over me. And I ask myself, "What have I done that's great?"

"What have I done that's great?"

The question comes to me seemingly from nowhere. My heart begins to slow, and gradually I take deeper and deeper breaths as this question haunts me. "What have I done that's great?"

And that's when I realize why my heart is racing so fast. It is because I'm unable to realize an answer.

My muscles relax to the point where my body feels like jello. My hands release their grip on my slowing heart and fall limp to my side. I feel as relaxed as I've ever felt, and I continue to wonder what I'm doing with my life. Is it all worthwhile?

What is a worthwhile life?

I've written about this topic before, but at this moment it feels very different. It feels visceral, as if I don't come up with an answer then it's all for naught.

And that's when more questions flood my mind. They come to me so quickly that I have to pick up my phone and dictate them in a note so I won't forget them.


These events took place last night. Eventually, I fell back asleep, and I awoke in the morning feeling perfectly fine as if nothing had happened.

But then I remember the questions.

    1. What have I done that’s great?

    2. Who have I helped today?

    3. Does it matter to anyone that I lived?

    4. Have I ever cried uncontrollably out of sheer gratitude?

    5. How do I put love into the world?

    6. Will anyone remember me in 100 years? 50 years? 5 years?

    7. Do I live a life worth writing about?

    Amazing question.

    8. Have I ever saved someone’s life?

    This question isn't restricted to physically saving one's life.

    9. Is my kindness infectious?

    10. Am I doing the right thing?

    11. Do I give unconditionally?

    12. Am I prepared to die?

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