This Latin phrase, which literally means, "pluck the day," was used by the Roman poet Horace to teach readers to enjoy life while they can. The full phrase, "carpe diem quam minimum credula postero,” is more accurately translated as “pluck the day, trusting as little as possible in the next one,” but carpe diem alone has come to be the popular shorthand for this entire phrase, which is more commonly known as "seize the day."
On my flight home from the whimsical wedding of Stuart and Rebecca Vesty, I was moved to watch the movie, Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams. It took less than five minutes into the movie to realize that the next Our Town column was coming my way through a message I had missed the first time I watched the movie.
In this 50s period drama, the words, “Carpe diem. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary,” were whispered by Robin Williams’ character into the ears of young men feeling the pressure to conform to society’s expectations of them. It was a chilling scene that instantly reminded me of my favorite YouTube video featuring Robin Williams after his untimely death. The video is an exceptionally moving montage of movies featuring Robin Williams’ spectacular life while he recites a speech on living life to its fullest.
Today, the movement of nonconformity, in my view, does not radically differ from the youth of the 50s. Mental illness, depression and suicide were not topics of conversation in every day life as they are now, but the pressure to conform to others expectations were just as deadly and the desire to “seize the day” was as coveted and confusing.
The question that is now haunting me, is the pressure to be strikingly different causing as much pain as the pressure of conforming to what is expected? Are we trapped in the expectations of others, our parents or peers, or are we trapped in our own expectations of who we think we should be? Either way, the trap is the same.
Be who they say you should be
Or maybe, just Be
Today, make a decision to seize the day. Just be you and release yourself from the trap. You alone hold the key. Remain true to yourself while balancing the tight wire of certainty that being who you are does not cause unjust suffering or pain to others.