My New Year’s resolution was for 2014 to be the year that none of my friends died. It takes a lot of pressure off when you give yourself a resolution that you have no control over. It’s a bit of a copout, but at least you don’t have to deal with the disappointment of getting all hyped up for a lofty lifestyle change, only to be back to old ways after a few short weeks. There are no family members feigning concern for you for slipping up on your comically brief dedications. I thought you were going to lose twenty pounds this year? That’s an awful lot of Taco Bell for someone who’s supposed to be losing twenty pounds. Did Taco Bell come out with a low cal Doritos Tacos Locos? Is there some trendy new Taco Bell diet I’ve never heard of?
Either way, my resolution, like most, didn’t live to see Valentine’s Day.
I read a lot of articles about being in your twenties, not because I want to read them, but because they’re unavoidable in the internet echo chamber. They’re all basically the same. 56 Movies to Watch in your Twenties. 13 Albums You Need to Hear Between the Ages of Twenty and Twenty-Nine. 112 Symptoms of a Rampant Anxiety Disorder You’ll Quietly Suffer with Starting the Day You’re No Longer Nineteen.
Netflix, pizza, cheap beer, Snapchat, a vague longing for a simpler time that may or may not have ever existed, being single, being in relationships, promiscuous sex, your friends starting careers, your friends getting engaged, your friends getting married, your friends having ugly ass babies. Somehow, no one ever really talks about how this is the time in your life where your friends start dying. One day, you’re liking the Facebook status they obviously stole from someone on Tumblr who obviously stole it from someone on Twitter, and the next day, you’re asking off work to make sure you can make it their memorial service on the college campus the two of you shared less than two years ago. You’re regretting the convenience of all the social media channels where you saw him everyday, convincing you that there was no need to call him up, no need to go grab some beers on a Saturday you were both free, the same newsfeeds, timelines, and dashboards now clogged with his name and the letters R, I, and P.
Some people are supposed to die. That’s insensitive, but it’s a little true. There are times when people die and it’s just not unexpected. The girl who was texting and driving was supposed to hit that tree. That’s what happens when you text and drive. The guy with the drug addiction was supposed to overdose. It’s sad, but it’s completely on course with the cosmos. It’s the fulfillment of all the warnings we got from our parents as children. Keep your eyes on the road at all times. Don’t do drugs. Then, there are people who just die, people who never did anything wrong, people whose brilliance seemed to extend to every subject except how to hurt someone. Those people die too. There was no warning our parents gave us to avoid that kind of fate. Oh, also, don’t be a perfect person. Don’t make everyone around you laugh. Don’t be blazingly intelligent, and so genuine in your lack of pretense that no one has a bad thing to say about you. If you do, you might die.
The invincibility of youth wore off a long time ago. Our hometowns are full of cautionary tales. The popular bully who never studied a day in his life is working at the aluminum factory. The binge drinker has an upcoming court date for his second DUI, and they might throw him in jail this time. We’ve accepted by now that there are consequences to our actions. But there’s a difference between realizing you won’t live forever and realizing that you will die someday, no matter who you are and no matter what you do. There may be 56 movies, 13 albums, and 112 symptoms we’ll experience in our twenties, but there’s only one time that we’ll come face to face with the proof of how temporary we are for the first time. Our parents spent a lot of time telling us about the all the things that might kill us. They didn’t often bring up how even the perfect ones will die.
I’ve had to adjust my resolution a bit. This will not be the year that none of my friends die. I’ve got a creeping suspicion that I’ll never have another year like that in my life. I’m getting too old for it. Instead, my resolution will be that 2014 will be the year I lose twenty pounds. It feels like even more of a copout than the first one, but I’ve had reality thrust into my face recently, and I’ve learned that “tomorrow isn’t promised” isn’t a cliche. I’ve learned that it isn’t guaranteed. All I want is something to look forward to. A pound off next week. A few inches trimmed before December. I need something that will help me pretend there’s no chance I’ll be the next name clogging the newsfeeds, the timelines, and the dashboards.