Living and Loving Well
“My biggest fear is being on my deathbed and feeling like I missed my one chance to live a good life.” Sean Pfitzenmaier, co-founder of timeshel, finishes a cup of soup at a cafe in the West Village and speaks of his desire to live free of regret.
Twenty years ago he walked into a Borders bookstore and bought a book of black and white photographs from the 1920s. The photographs were snapshots of young adults captured in everyday activities — smoking cigarettes, sunning in giant felt hats, dancing the Charleston. Sean pored over the images of men and women who appeared so full of life on the glossy pages. Suddenly he was struck with the realization that these people’s lives, once so vibrant and full of potential, are no more.
He hung the photos on the walls of his apartment in San Diego as a reminder to live in the present. “It’s much easier for me to reflect on the past or plan the future; taking advantage of the present is a challenge,” he says. “But it’s kind of the most important thing. This life is really fleeting.”
But how does one live well? I ask Sean what he believes will allow him to say, that was a good life when he comes to the end of it. He takes his time responding.
Outside the cafe, sidewalks are wet with recent rain, the West Village a wash of grey. Sean laughs and comments on how appropriate the weather is for a conversation about death.
Sean married his wife Ali in October 2014, and a year later they became parents to a baby girl, Rio. “My life has changed radically in the past few years,” he says, smiling. Before he became a husband and a father, his primary goal was to explore all he could. Immediately after college he took ten weeks to drive across the country, and has spent time on six of the world’s seven continents, living in four different cities. “Experiencing different cultures, socioeconomic groups, all types of people… made me feel from an experiential standpoint that I was really living a good life.”
He still holds these values as key components to a life well-lived. However, becoming a husband and a father has expanded, rather than altered his perception of what a good life entails. “Living well has shifted to living and loving well,” he explains.
I understand what he means. Gathering experiences for self-edification only goes so far. It is far more meaningful to experience new things in the context of others — to have new experiences with other people, to encourage others, to gain an increasing ability to love others well. “It’s a more mature definition of living well, I think,” Sean says.
“Ultimately, being a father is a huge factor in living the life I want to live,” he says. But fatherhood comes with a steep learning curve. “I had my life figured out, not that it was easy — but I knew how to optimize everything for myself as an individual. It’s different now because this is brand new and I don’t really know what I’m doing.”
A yellow taxi disrupts the grey, sending a spray of mist behind it as it passes the cafe. “I want to love people well,” he reiterates thoughtfully. “But I don’t totally know how that plays itself out. I’m not sure I ever will.”
Interested in preserving your own story through printed photographs? Learn more at www.timeshel.co.