Now what do I do?

PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown
Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Some relatives from out of state visited us a few weeks ago. New eyes upon the world we know can show us what we miss. One cousin asked how often we used the lake by our house for swimming, fishing and boating. I had to admit that we did more of that during their visit than we had all the rest of summer.

It reminded me of times I’d visited the Twin Cities, especially as a kid. It baffled me that my metropolitan kin wouldn’t spend every day in the fancy parks, baseball card shops or watching the Twins in the old Metrodome. They lived right there, in the heart of the action, and what did they do? They went to work and came home at night.

You call that living?

Well, I do now. Even though I still live up north, and I spend just enough time outside to turn tan, fact is that I punch keys for a living. I type until I get tired. Then I go to bed. Wake up and do it again. Life becomes punctuated by the school year, births and deaths and the occasional need to buy better-fitting pants.

Why am I not kayaking? Hiking? Picking berries? Why am I not building the sauna I keep talking about out of lumber from the yard, teaching myself the basics of carpentry and masonry in the process? Fact is, getting 10,000 steps on my FitBit and playing my daily solitaire game on my phone holds higher priority. The evidence is damning.

It becomes very easy to glorify the life you don’t have at the expense of the one you’re actually living. Talk to the old folks. They don’t miss working. They miss walking and pooping regular. And if they have any regrets about their situation, it’s the lack of purpose.

But now that lament seems to extend across the generations. The motto of our times seems to be “Now what do I do?” I’d chisel that in Latin onto a slab of granite, but I don’t know Latin or own the right kind of chisel. Besides, they don’t teach any of that in the schools anymore. It’s not on the test. 

“Now what do I do?” asks the teenager. She works and pays for a car. “Now what do I do?” asks the middle-aged parent. He works and pays for a house. “What does it all mean?” asks the retiree. He looks for evidence that it was all worth it. Television reminds that he could have bought more stuff and been more angry. Can you believe that thing on TV? Where do I click to show that I am mad?

But we need not be angry or fearful about this passage of time or the end of things. We need only to seek purpose in communion with others, to notice the seasons and sharpen our beliefs with the whetstone of honesty.

We are not what we say. We are only what we do. And when we are done doing, we are done done done. But not until then. Now, I do.

So what are you doing today? I’m going to type sentences, walk 10,000 steps and play my daily solitaire. But I’m also going to touch the grass and dip into the lake if the weather holds. Summer is short. A hot, wet kiss long remembered. It’s too good to waste. And enough to go around.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, July 21, 2019 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


  1. C.O. Rudstrom says

    Well put.

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