Everyone has an opinion, in some way or another when we are faced with life’s choices, on what not to do, how to best avoid regret, how to “live life to the fullest,” but the overuse of these terms sometimes causes these sentiments to be not all the way thought out, or not quite examined in their truest reality.
I recently saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” at my mother’s behest. My mother is a world traveler, and I myself, at 25, have been many, many places, having studied abroad twice. But the cinematography of this film showed me some extraordinarily beautiful places that I haven’t been, and it made me feel as though of all my past travels were in vain. I remember sitting on a train to Saint Andrew’s (I lived in Scotland for about 6 months), writing down facts and myths I was learning about the Picts who ruled Scotland. Their blue faces, tattoos, Saint Columbo bringing them Christianity. It seemed so far away. Why hadn’t I traveled more recently? Sometimes it is our lives, our jobs, our pursuit of the future which prevents us from embracing the “now.”
Our lives are so short. We think we grasp this, but we really don’t. It should terrify us, as it does me in the middle of the night, when all is quiet and it seems that no one is, in fact, terrified, except for me. I have always had a profound fear and grasp on mortality, and sometimes it makes me question all I do, but the mere brevity of life should spur us on to great and fearless things.
I am 26, so probably a good deal more than ¼ through my life. The scariest, most abyss-staring part of death is that, once we are dead, we never come back. If I fall off a roof and snap my neck, my body ceases to have life. And for all of the billions and billions and endless time that the universe will continue to exist, I will never return. Think about that. Then think about the grain of sand our life truly is.
Some will think on these dimensions, this gaping hole of mortality and think that it means our lives don’t matter. Ah, but that is wrong. They DO matter. They matter to US! We live them. I am not particularly religious, so I tend to view my short life span as a finite existence; that nothing comes after. So what if this is all there is?
My best friend died at 16, and every day, I realize that it would be no great tragedy if my life ended today, a decade longer than she got to live. What have I to show for it?
We are only this blink of an eye in the span and enormity of the universe. We will never be glaring histories or unforgettable tales. We will be forgotten, no doubt there. But we are living these lives, so why not take them to the “extremes”? So many people live in fear of just that certain death, which is definitely coming. What is NOT certain is the quality of our lives. Do that which you feel in your blood you must do. You literally have no day but today. And for the rest of eternity, you will be scattered molecules and no one will remember you. This is it. Today.
Instead of making any kind of New Year’s resolution, I told myself that I am going to make the MOST effort to the things that matter to ME each day; spend as much time as I possibly can with my dog, go running, READ more books each month, and capitalize on this insane, nonsensical, beautiful, fleeting gift of life. No one will be there to check off society’s expectations of your life at the end, and there is no last call. Do the things that matter to you, and if you don’t know what that is yet, search it out! There is no right or wrong. You are the only person viewing the movie that is your life. You decide its plot, even though you cannot decide its ending.
My favorite saying is Carpe Diem, thanks to about a thousand viewings of “Dead Poets Society” when I a small girl, and in those terror-stricken moments of the night when everyone else is asleep and it seems like only I realize our impending doom, I stand by that motto, cliché or no. Seize YOUR days. They are yours and yours alone, and you have no idea how very few of them you have to make your dreams reality. What is there to stop you? Only you, my friend. In the end, it is only you.