I remember when people started talking about how as the longevity of life continues to widen, humanity will begin to prolong major life events, like getting married, having children or settling into a stable career. I always figured I would be exempt of this, especially after I got married at 23. After getting divorced rather shortly into my marriage, my outlook shifted just as quickly. Suddenly, I became the one procrastinating, no longer being able to envision that I would have a small family and a settled financial state with my spouse by 30. I focused more devotedly on death, as well as the concept of death through failure.
It’s perplexing how fast our lives can change course, causing us to reexamine things we thought were set in stone. Now being 26, I no longer anticipate certain events transpiring in any solidified way. I take every day individually. I calculate my time differently than I did when I was younger, and I’m oddly more confident in the unknown than I imagined I ever could be.
Lately, I’ve been watching life develop into the mystifying, foreign thing I always heard my parents and elders talk about—friends are settling down, friends are dying, people are coming and going faster than they did before college and the few short years that followed in which keeping in touch was easier. It’s common to imagine that your life will be different, that you’ll somehow be pardoned the specific pains life can bring. We hold onto a memory or a moment and can’t see past it, blindly believing that our most cherished memories will somehow be relived, that one special point in time that felt memorable and right will come around again. Instead, other moments unfold—some good, some bad—and we begin to form new memories, rearranging our perspective and forcing us into the realization that life’s unpredictability is a part of its integral beauty.
I’ve been caught up in the understanding that “best” is a fluid term. It mutates over time, lacing itself with other terms that are more apt to describe the complexity of life and the most meaningful moments within it. When I was younger, it was a seamless process to be content and satisfied in the state of things. I accepted everything as it was, not questioning as much as just being. As I grow older, I’ve come to accept that the bad aspects of life are so woven into the good that it’s impossible to take one without the other. All we can do is concentrate on the good, acknowledging the bad along with it, but not allowing the bad to become the main plot.
There were times I lived rather carelessly. I didn’t think of others as often as I should have and taking care of myself in a selfish way was paramount to recognizing the importance of giving instead of gaining. After my divorce and the following emotions that are attached to severe loss, I figured that if we are all going to die one day, what did it matter if I lived life recklessly, paying no mind to anyone except myself. I don’t regret that period of my life—I don’t believe in regret, in general—but I’m now able to see how much I was stealing from myself as I denied others the respect they deserved, and as I denied myself respect, in turn. To pay mind to those around us and offer ourselves as selfless, thoughtful humans is a critical part of being pacified while alive; it’s essential to learning to just be, instead of planning aimlessly and losing touch when life doesn’t pan out as imagined.
My attention is no longer focused solely on my future personal gain, or the lack thereof in my present state. I no longer live with shame that I’m not married with children and my ideal job at the age I envisioned I would be. I’m content to love those around me, to show respect to both the people I love and the ones I merely tolerate. In that, I also respect myself more than I did in the past, living with an aim for meaning and appreciating what I have, not what I wanted. I kind of forget about time when I set my sights on just being and being with others.
I know that the major events that we catalog our lives by will come to me when they’re intended to. In the meantime, I want to devote myself to the personal gain of relationships and self-awareness that have already come to me, that have molded me and directed my path. If I’m going to live longer, I want to live longer surrounded by people I can love selflessly. I want to respect myself by making wiser decisions in every moment, so that the ensuing moments will be set for my benefit, not disappointment. I want to know that I lived long with intention, not the intent to be so consumed with death or death of ideals that I neglect the time I’ve been given to be alive.