The only thing that is guaranteed in life is that some day, you will die. It could happen tonight. You could be sleeping in bed, a group of thugs could break into your house, put a bullet in your head, and that would be “all she wrote”. No more life. If that were to happen to you tonight, would you be completely satisfied with the life that you lived?
There exists a number of certain milestones that we arbitrarily set within popular culture. The ages associated with these milestones are typically 16, 18, 21, 30, 40, 50. Each one of those ages has represented something that we typically consider significant. At 16 we (in the U.S.) can begin driving. At 18, we graduate high school and enter into adulthood. At 21, we (again, in the U.S.) can legally purchase alcohol. And so the thresholds grow. Of course, each subsequent point after 21 is more lackluster. There are certain other milestones that we are to experience or achieve. Be it getting married, buying the first house, having a first child, raising the child, and watching that child begin that upward crawl just as you had once done. It’s been the same formula for many years. The quintessential climb up the ladder of life.
I believe that far too much attention is given to those values or milestones. One should not try to quantify their own unique existence based exclusively upon these specific markers that society has given such great value. Instead, making your own unique goals or markers to encounter is far more interesting; even if you are the only one who can appreciate it.
First, we must reduce the total major milestones to 2. The day you are born and the day you die. Those two events are going to happen within your life. You are born and you will die. We must realize that there is no escape from life beyond death. Each one of us will face death at some point. You can’t do anything about it – it’s just how it is. The most important thing for you to do is not worry about death. Just accept it. You cannot stop it, so do not be afraid. The fear of death holds many people back from taking risks or truly tasting life. That fear is a great handicap.
Consider the following. Let’s assume that you were to die in 60 minutes. You knew that you were going to die and you could nothing but sit back and think about your life. What have you done that will stand as your legacy? Do you have any children? If so, did you raise them to be their own unique individuals or carbon copies of you by drilling your own personal ideologies into them? Do you feel that they will carry on living and make you proud? Did you do anything remarkable that will enable many people to remember you by? Did you create beautiful music, write a moving piece of literature, paint a breathtaking work of art, or construct an object of a grand scale to capture the eyes of others? Did you accomplish all of the goals that you ever hoped for? Did you take that vacation you always wanted? What did you do?
When you die, you may have some sort of funeral. There may be people who make arrangements after your death for you if you failed to make adequate plans. They may do the funeral in a manner that is contrary to your beliefs and way of life – is that acceptable? Do you now wish that you took steps before this moment? Realize that some people will be sad. Some people may be happy. A lot of people will be indifferent. Realize that when you die, it’s really over. You may be buried in a cemetery, cremated and stashed in an urn, or perhaps donated to science. There will be a short-lived duration where you will be memorialized, but it won’t last long. Eventually, your death will be forgotten, save for a few key players in your life (spouse, child, sibling, etc.), but beyond those few people, nobody will dwell on it much. You no longer serve any function within the realm of existence. Your opinions disappear, your presence is gone, and you will never have any say on anything ever again. You are dead.
Now think back to those milestones. How important were they? Do they hold an serious meaning now? Probably not. Do you think there could have been a better way?
We know that there are only essential milestones – life and death. So now what? We also realize that we do not have the ability to set the scope of those milestones. Take a child that is killed in a freak accident – their individual scope was obviously quite limited. But, because they were a child perhaps their death will have a greater impact on people than the old guy who dies quietly in a nursing home? Perhaps. We don’t have control of the scope (at least without extreme measures), we only have control of the ‘stuff’ that happens in between.
As we get older, one thing that we begin to notice is how our perception of time changes. Things seem to accelerate and move faster towards that ‘ending’. We can’t slow it down. It’s just what happens. Is it possible that we slow it down? Realize that life isn’t a race, but something that should be savored like a nice a meal? How?
Think of those times when you were a kid, hanging out with your friends, or on special trip somewhere. Didn’t it feel like (albeit temporarily) that time was almost standing still? Was it because we suspended our sense of trivial perception of reality and were actually experiencing ‘being alive’? We were able to truly understand what it is like to live in the moment – there here and now. That magical instant where time stands still and only the true essence of being alive matters. There is no worry about good, evil, god, devil, just you individually having an experience. But, something happens.
Growing up often means that we have to enter a workforce. Get a job. Get a car. Get a house. Maybe start a family. And those individual ‘things’ occupy our time. Having an occupation means that you focus upon your job. Having a family means that you have an occupation to support your family. You enjoy your family on evenings, weekends, and holidays. But your career, your home, your car, your whatever is truly at the forefront. You are no longer living in a true sense, your are simply surviving within the parameters of modern consumer based existing.
I’m not saying that you should quit your job, dump your family, and become a nomadic wanderer searching for deeper meaning to life while hitchhiking from coast to coast – not at all. But it is important to stop. Look around. And remember what is really going on. You are working towards death. Get out there and taste life every chance you can. Try to recapture those feelings you had when you were a kid. Try to get that sensation of timelessness as much as possible. Take chances. Take risks. How will you ever really know who you are if you do not take the time to challenge yourself? So what if you die during that challenge – at least you did it. You went after it. You didn’t just sit back in a recliner and watch the lives of other people on television You don’t have to envy what the other guy has because he is too busy envying you. You find your own method of measuring success. You set your own standards. You establish the bar and you live up to it. You realize that you do not answer to a higher authority beyond yourself. You do not waste your life hoping and praying for an even better afterlife. You recognize that this is that one shot. If you screw it up, if you don’t live it to the maximum extent, if you do not give every moment your full potential, you are doing nothing more than existing.
Don’t exist. Learn to live.
Don’t survive. Learn the thrive.
Don’t be an observer. Learn to be an actor.
Don’t be afraid. Learn to use ‘fear’ as a motivator.
Don’t hold back. Learn to give it your all.
Don’t simply die. Learn to experience and go out with a bang.
Again – none of knows how long we have. No crystal ball seer can tell us that, no psychic is going to define that scope for us. We must assume that this life is really is as short as it appears to be and get after it. Enjoy it. Pursue lustful desires. Embrace greed. Have seconds occasionally. Enjoy everything that ‘they’ would rather have you believe stifles your existence.
Don’t wait for motivation in some sign from a higher power. Your sign is that you know that you are dying. Get the fuck out there and enjoy this life. There’s nothing else after that.