“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose…“Steve Jobs
I often forget this. It’s easy to forget that we are not immortal; that I am going to die, and so are you, and everyone you know. It’s a painful reminder that smacks you in the face whenever Death catches up with someone you know. It’s a mortal blow when it’s closer to home, when it’s family. But I don’t want to make this a painful read for you, or a struggle to write for me, rather I want to share to my thoughts with you.
Even legends die, but legacies live on
Sometimes I ask myself what my legacy will be? Whether I will be remembered and in whose memory I will live on. Some people change the face of history, art, music, business…the face of the world. But that’s not everyone’s fate, it couldn’t be. Legends make big ripples, and the rest of us, smaller ones, but all ripples matter. To love and to be loved is a legacy. To show unlimited kindness and generosity…to touch people’s lives no matter how few, is a worthwhile legacy.
What will my legacy be?
I love literature, film, art; and to leave the world with my writing, the fruits of my imagination is a dream. A dream I promise myself in my sane moments, to pursue relentlessly without pause, without fear. But that’s not the dream. I read in a book (The Shack) once, based on a true story, that our purpose for existence is to love and be loved. This guy claims he had an encounter with God, and that’s basically what he learnt. Whether the encounter was real or not is beside the point. I’ll take that purpose any day.
The dream, if I do nothing else with my existence, is to love without remorse, without regret, without restraint. It’s easy to forget this aspiration. To lose sight of it in the murky waters of day to day living; in the petty grudges, and justified anger we hold on to, too often; and in the bone deep fear, bitterness and pain we nurture close to our skin like a warm blanket on a winter night. It’s easy to forget the cooling balm forgiveness brings. The peace and quiet that comes with just minding our own goddamn business.
But I want that to be my legacy, that I loved, and I was loved.
Living before it’s too late
I can’t count the number of things I have put off for another time. The things I promise myself I’m going to do; things I actually really want to do. Small things, mind you, nothing too grand or too expensive. Small things like attending a Tuku show; like calling my sister; like visiting my father…except they’re not so small. Life isn’t going to wait for me to start living it. Whether I choose to live fully or not, the earth continues to orbit around the sun, and the world goes on.
I have clothes in my closet I always considered too special to wear on a regular basis. Gorgeous dresses saved for special occasions…except over the past two years I’ve steadily gained 10kgs and almost none of those beautiful clothes fit anymore. I guess the joke is on me. And I barely wore them! Why I just didn’t attend more occasions that called for dressing up like that, I have no idea. The worst part is I’m doing it again, I suppose teaching an old dog new tricks is pretty difficult huh?
Nowadays I try to catch before denying myself simple pleasurable or joyful experiences. Eating brings me joy. Eating chocolate anything (except chocolate yogurt, that stuff makes no sense to me), delicious food, and sweet wine brings me joy. So yes, I’m going to indulge myself once in a while, or as many times as is still healthy. Many things bring me joy, I can’t and won’t name them all, but I’ll certainly try to do them (within reason) …because I want to live whilst I’m still alive.
Too young to die
Here’s the thing, everyone expects old people to die, that’s the natural order of life. Nobody will say it, but well…we’re all thinking it. When you’re in your 80 and 90s, we kind of expect that eventually that you’re going to die, soon. It’s not an abstract time anymore, because you’ve lived a long life. It’s still sad when the elderly pass, but not unexpected. Even if they push to a 100 years, you all know it’s coming, and depending on how they’re faring, it’s almost anticipated.
But no one expects young people to die. Nobody ever anticipates the sudden death someone young. Even when s/he has been ill for the longest of time, it’s unbearably sad for onlookers, and a living nightmare for the family. When young people die, it leaves you questioning the very purpose of their existence. And this happens every day. Somewhere a family is burying someone whose life had only just begun. The 26 year old journalist who was shot by soldiers; the 22 year old boy playing football who suffered the same fate; the young women, robbed and murdered by alleged taxi drivers…the list could go on.
At 23, three of my peers whom I knew personally didn’t live beyond 22; a family member, beyond 14. I sometimes wonder if Lisa’s mother will ever learn to cope with the gaping wound her daughter left at just 22. I wonder if the family will ever function again. I wonder what the purpose of her living was, if only to have her snatched away so soon. Perhaps, it was to love and to be loved, I don’t know…the pain and grief is a heavy price to pay.
Choices we make
I look at this as a reminder; a reminder that I am not immortal. A reminder that I only have this one life, that I’m the one who gets to live it and that I don’t know how long I have. My choices and actions will be mine to live with, therefore whichever steps I take, I’m always cognisant of this. I will pursue only the career that I want; live how I want to; and marry only marry if I want to, when I want to, whom I want. I choose to live with hope, no matter how hopeless a situation seems.
Let it be said at the very end:
I was here, I lived, I loved. I’ve done everything that I wanted and it was more than I thought it would be.
When I leave this world, I’ll leave no regrets, instead, I’ll leave something to remember.Beyoncé – I was here