During an interview a few weeks ago, a reporter asked me, “What was the best time of your life?” You would think it should be easy to come up with a few stand-out eras or events but I failed. Blank. Empty. Not even a hint or two.
Since then, I've spent some private time with that question and of course, the first problem is the question itself: how to define “best”?
Does it mean healthiest? Happiest? Most successful? I don't know.
A little, light research around the web turned up a lot of pages addressing the question and among them are advocates for every age of life. The majority of respondents, however, said they were 20-something, drifting up to 40 here and there, but they all gave a similar answer: childhood, teen years, college and 20s were, in their eyes, the best times of their lives.
Explanations for that choice were also similar, variations on this:
”Independence without bearing responsibility or burden. You have no family, your parents don't require your obligation yet, and you are physically and financially free to do whatever the hell you want.”
Does that – a period of no responsibility – really represent the best of life? Not for me. I have no recollection of not being responsible for at least myself, and for others as needed or wanted through the years. As far as I can figure it, responsibility to a variety of people and entities is part of what life is.
It's clear then that “best” means different things to different people but for now, let's go with what I am guessing was the reporter's intent: the time or times in life that stand out above others in a positive way.
I've had a lot of good times – from being blessed with smart, interesting friends to fascinating jobs. During the decade I was a producer for The Barbara Walters Specials, I traveled the U.S. and the world on someone else's dime visiting places I would never have gotten to on my own.
There was another bunch of years as part of the team that created and then ran one of the first two news websites (cbsnews.com) at the start of the internet era. Now, as for the past 15 years, I've used what I learned in all those earlier years to turn out this blog.
For someone whose enthusiasms are all over the map, I couldn't have asked for better kinds of employment - although I am dangerously close to admitting that during my life, “best” has meant “entertaining” and I'm not sure that's a good thing. But it's too late to bother with now; time is running short.
After all that explanation, my answer is, “now, right now” - as it would have been during each of the eras (and others) I've described – is the best.
Best is not necessarily synonymous with happy and sometimes, when terrible things happened, I was miserable. But the overall arc of my adult life is that each year or era was the best as it was happening.
That may sound disingenuous from a woman living with pancreatic cancer but I've always been a realist: take what life throws you way and if you can't fix it, do the best you can with it.
And so it is now. I'm trying.
What was the best time of your life?