This is from a column that Jon Carroll wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle in 1995, back when I was still living in the Bay Area, back at a moment when I needed to read these words.
SO THEN JEANNE STEAGER died of multiple head wounds, died instantly within sight of a gigantic plaster Santa Claus two days after Christmas. She was the first person I actually knew who died.
And what I could remember about her was her plans. What I could remember about her was the neat rows she had set down for her life, the lines on the graph paper that stretched in pleasing geometry well into the future.
I doubt that she was thinking, when she turned her head and saw the truck coming, “Well, there goes that trip to Greece.” But I thought that, later. I thought that the overlooked corollary to “it’s never too late” is “it’s never too early.”
The day after Jeanne Steager died, I went into Mr. Stern’s office and quit my job. I was out of there in an hour; I was back home for lunch. It’s never too early. Plans are just guesses.
I SUPPOSE I AM bringing tidings of subversive cheer; I suppose I am suggesting that you consider a change. Quit your job if you hate it. Go on. I know these are hard times, and people fall off the edge, but God is passing out brain tumors too, and you might as well take the plunge. The plunge is all we’ve got.
When you’re young you think that life stretches out indefinitely and you can take this crap for another decade. And the lesson of Jeanne Steager is, No, you bloody well can’t. Life is of varying lengths, and actuarial tables are only averages, and sometimes you gotta close your eyes and jump. Even if it’s scary; especially if it’s scary.
Easy for me to say now; I have my dream job. I have my dream job because I quit that other job; that’s a fact. Transcendence happens at precisely the same rate as that other stuff. As Wendell Berry says: Practice resurrection.
The whole column is here.