Thursday, November 21, 2013

The worst word ever


Now there's an idea I don't like to think about very much. But there's something really poignant in seeing that word - or even thinking about it. It's so final. For some people the idea of the "after" is a refuge, but it's what I fear the most.

When you're someone who thinks a lot about the future, the inevitability of death often occurs to you. If you're like me, you shrug it off, reminding yourself that you have years and years until that's even a concern. But little things can remind you of your mortality. Like watching a movie or listening to a song or thinking about your own past, even.

I compounded all the possible paths to thinking about "the end" tonight. Starting with watching the movie Seeking A Friend for the End of the World, continuing by thinking of how my mom passed away at a relatively young age and finally listening to Amy Winehouse's cover of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" For those who aren't acquainted with Amy Winehouse, she passed away in 2011 at 27 years of age.

These different paths of thought didn't have any interconnectedness, really, except for their relationship with the inevitable.

It's not that death is something that scares me outright. I'm sure there are some people who fear the potential of pain, or the sting of loss. But, as many more insightful thinkers have expressed in the past, when you are the one passing on, you are entering a state of peace. The pain doesn't last, there are no stings when you can't feel a thing.

But now and forever, what I fear the most is the constant looming feeling of incompleteness.

It's a principle that guides my life. I force myself to unhealthy levels of stress to finish work quickly. I call upon others to be thorough and responsive to my needs - even when I'd be better off not expecting anything from anyone. I always want to feel like I am (and I am surrounded by) a state of equilibrium.

Yet I recognize the fact that there will never be a moment in my life when I am fully happy with where I am, what I'm doing, who I'm with. It's part of human nature to always be striving for more. It's one of our best assets - that we dream of a better future. On the other hand, it's our greatest downfall, knowing that even our grandest achievements may never live up to expectations. We will keep trying to move forward, content to forget about the past no matter how successful we've been.

I worry tremendously that at the end of my days I will feel that what I've done isn't equal to what I want. There should be some balance, really. Maybe it's unrealistic, but I hope that at some moment in my lifetime I can look back and believe that where I've been is where I want to continue going - that the path I'm on is right and that the pleasure outranks the regret.

I wonder if as we grow older, we grow complacent about this whole concept. When we're young, we're raised to believe that the sky's the limit - we can achieve anything. So we expect to do something big. Once we're older, we must put our expectations in check more than ever. That, plus maturity, probably equals a bit more grounded perspective on what constitutes a meaningful life.

If that's not true, then the future looks bleak.

The most worrisome thing, when I consider all the thoughts that ran through my mind that brought me to this subject, is that we can't ask the people who've experienced death what their battle with the past was like leading up to it.

Since she passed away at 27, I can't imagine there was any sort of finality present in Amy Winehouse's life. It was a mistake, unintended and badly timed. How would she have felt looking back on her life, knowing that she would not live to see her 30s? With a blossoming music career, surely Amy Winehouse wasn't someone who achieved nothing. She'll long be remembered for her moody voice and eclectic music.

But if someone as successful as she could regret things, then where does that leave me? Or the rest of the planet's relative underachievers? Especially those among us who are unlucky enough to leave the Earth before they reach their "full potential."

The truth of this subject is that there isn't much of a silver lining to share. It's hard to feel positive about something that lurks around every corner and does nothing but bring sadness to our past, present and future mortal lives. All I know is that there has to be some conceivable expectation in life that, once met, will make death seem less frightening. Maybe it's having children, maybe it's becoming successful and wealthy, maybe it's owning 50 pairs of shoes. I don't know.

All I know is I haven't figured it out yet. And I hope I do. Because where I'm at is not good at the moment. Since I'm always looking toward the future to brighten up my present, more and more weight is being put on the future's future... which just means more and more pressure is being placed on me, even in terms of issues that I shouldn't be worrying about this month, this year or even this decade.

I don't think that considering this makes me a pessimist or a realist - just an ordinary thinking person. I imagine we all have fears about the future, and about the end as well. Unlike I've done before, pushing these thoughts into the deep recesses of my brain, I just decided to write them down. Freeing the thoughts is usually the most constructive option.

I hope this discussion didn't ruin your evening. And I hope that reading the word "Death" placed so ominously at the top of this page didn't put you in as foul and overwrought a mood as it put me in.

Because death is sort of (and I'm saying this honestly) a beautiful thing. We have a mostly definite timeline as humans, and that's what keeps us moving forward. We look toward the future because foresight makes us better people. By definition, the future will never seem complete. It just takes some power to accept that.

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