I Want to be like James Dean

Justine - Syracuse, New York
Entered on September 2, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in James Dean. I know, I know, James Dean? In this poignant essay about philosophies of my life I choose James Dean? Well, it’s not exactly James Dean the actor who I believe in, but instead the way that he chose to live his life that inspired me. James Dean touched on something truly profound when he stated his now infamous line, “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” I believe this statement to be my philosophy in life.

It seems that these two statements “dream as if you’ll live forever” and “live as if you’ll die today” unfortunately don’t always overlap in life. When we are children we tend to feel like we’ll live forever and therefore dream like it. I remember wanting 4 different career changes throughout my lifetime when I was young, from a doctor to an astronaut to a marine biologist to an actress, not realizing that this was really not possible, but I loved the idea of it. When we are young we are ignorant to many of the hardships in life. I understand now why they say “ignorance is bliss”. When we get older we sometimes become jaded by the world and don’t dream for things that we think we cannot accomplish or will never obtain. I now try to dream like that unaware child that I used to be.

We also tend to live by the statement “live as if you’ll die tomorrow” too late in life when we realize that there is not a lot of life left to live. We have simply waited too long to really begin living. I knew a boy growing up whose main love in life was to travel. He wanted to go to every country and he wasted no time on accomplishing this goal. He would travel on every school break. He had made it to five different continents. In order to afford all these trips he would fly on the cheapest airlines and stayed in hostels and even with some host families that he could find, just so that he could have an experience. His last trip came when he was just 16 years old. When he returned home from a week in the mountains of Peru he passed away in his sleep from an undetected medical condition. He had done more in his short 16 years of life than many people will do in their entire lifetime. At his funeral there were handouts given out and as I looked through one I noticed James Dean’s quote and it really stayed with me. I realized just how short life really is, even if you live to be 90 years old, and there is no time to waste or to settle short. He has inspired me to do things in life now instead of putting it off for later, because there might not be a later. He is one of the reasons that I decided to go abroad and see the world.

“Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today”. James Dean truly encompassed this statement. He did what he loved in life and never settled for anything less. It is ironic that this now iconic American symbol spoke these words without knowing that his life was going to be tragically cut short at the age of 24. Although he was silenced all too soon he was able to consciously make an effort to make sure that he dreamed as if he were that child unbiased to the world around him, while also making sure that he lived the life that he had always wanted. In my life it is important to consciously try and make sure that these two statements are overlapping. I have a picture of the actor hung above my bed with this message on it so that every morning I can wake up and realize just how important his quote is. It is my philosophy every day to try and live by this statement. This is why I believe in James Dean’s message.