After an amazing weekend with friends, I had to refocus and turn in my 3rd term grades today. What a relief to have them all in though! Now that I've conquered them, I wanted to post my review of Patrick Swayze's autobiography The Time of My Life, because it has been weighing on my mind for a couple of weeks. Rather than a normal synopsis and review, you'll have to forgive me as I take this in a little bit of a different direction.
Back in junior high, I developed a huge crush on the great actor, Patrick Swayze. I remember becoming obsessed with him as Orry Main, the son of a plantation owner from South Carolina who becomes friends with a northerner during his West Point days, pre-Civil War. Let's not mince words, Patrick Swayze was electric in that role, and many to follow! Today I own that series, and still love it.
As a young girl, I had Patrick's "Sexiest Man Alive" cover from People magazine taped up in my locker at school, and followed his career like any good fan would do.
Of course we remember Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, but he played in a wide range of other movies that included Ghost, Roadhouse, and many, many more. Before acting Patrick started off as this amazing dancer, that started as a ballet dancer in New York City, but ended up in acting after injuries prevented him from dancing professionally any longer. He also had an incredibly long-lasting relationship with the beautiful Lisa Niemi, who I had seen with him in interviews. The two met in Texas as young dancers, and later fell in love and married as aspiring dancers in New York. Together, they built a life together that comes through beautifully in Swayze's autobiography.
I've always loved Patrick Swayze and his work, loved his passion for life, and loved his absolute dedication to the people closest to him. To me, he was a wonderful, surprising man of conviction in an industry that often lack such qualities.
Having said that, and knowing some of his background already, I was so touched to learn more about his life. In his autobiography, The Time of My Life, Patrick Swayze reveals many of what he felt were vulnerable aspect of his character, which included his need to master whatever skill he attempted (feeling that he always had to be good at whatever he did), his abiding love for his wife Lisa (which he revealed he always felt she wasn't as in to him as he was into her, which he later learned was totally wrong), and his deep pain over losing a much loved father and its effects on him. I was moved to hear about his vulnerable moments, to hear how he faced them, and even how he overcame the problems he developed with alcohol as he dealt with his pain. To me, Patrick Swayze's life is a real testament to the ups and downs of any person's life, and how we can approach them.
As I knew heading into his life story, I also knew that the book was completed shortly before his death in September of last year. Patrick Swayze's battle with pancreatic cancer was known from the beginning, and seems to float over the book as you read, making you think, "Just give it all you've got!" From this, I mean that I kept thinking that had he known, how would he have changed things? I think we all would just say to ourselves, to dig deep and give life all you have, which is what I kept thinking as I related his struggles to some of my own. Ten years ago I had a much too close brush with pancreatic cancer. At 23 I had a tumor removed from my pancreas, and for years since, have been haunted by all the "what ifs" of that paralyzing disease. I was fortunate to have caught it so young, and have had yearly check ups to ensure a clean bill of health ever since. Having shared that, I have to admit to always passing up any book, film, or interview that discussed pancreatic cancer, only because of my own fears over the disease. Patrick Swayze's life story and fight against cancer was the first time I really faced listening to someone else's story. Before that, I just couldn't listen. In fact, when The Last Lecture came out, I avoided it like the plague, and still have not read it, out of my own fear. However, with this strange obsession I had with Patrick Swayze as a young girl, I felt that I had this connection to what he was going through, and wanted to hear more.
It seemed to me, that in the end, Patrick Swayze honored his own life and what he had accomplished through the way he battled cancer. Cancer will never define him, but strangely shed a light on all the good he had done, and reminded us all of how important it is to reach for happiness each and every day.
In synopsis, I highly recommend The Time of My Life. Listen, I'm the first person to run from stories of cancer or dogs (you know...because they always die!), but this autobiography was really moving. Like any human story, it reminded me how precious life is, and even how precious we are as individuals. The walk-away message of this book is varied, and I can say that I have thought about many different aspects of my own life since reading his autobiography. All I can say is, that as a fan, but more as a fellow human being, his life touched mine for good.
For more information, see: The Time of My Life.
*Review based off of library copy of the book.