I was sitting in church two weeks ago, and the saddest thought I ever had, struck me, I am going to die someday. Now I know that seems like a no-brainer, but this was the first time I thought about it in the context of my life. When you’re a kid death seems far away, like graduating high school or turning thirty, they seem distant or mythical. Of course your whole perspective changes when you hit one of these milestones, I graduated from high school ten years ago, and I’m turning thirty in February.
Anyway, I had this thought, that I am going to die someday. “I am going to die soon” was the exact thought, and in the scheme of things, another 30 or 40 years is fairly soon (think about how quickly a week goes by). This thought terrified me and the all-powerful Christian promise of Heaven was no comfort, I mean I am not scared of dying; I’ve probably been ready to go since I was 20. What scared me is the fact that there is so much I have left to do on this earth and the time to do it in keeps getting shorter.
Maybe it’s a side effect of turning 30, but I’ve been looking back on what I’ve accomplished and I’m sad to say, it’s not much. I graduated college, I have a stable job, and I amassed a large amount of student, but these are only three of the many societal markers of adulthood and in my eyes, these are the easy ones. I don’t own a house, I don’t own a dog, I’m not married or in any form of relationship, and I don’t have kids. Lately I’ve been reminded the movie The Kid, in the movie Bruce Willis plays a successful image consultant who, on his fortieth birthday, receives a visit from his ten year-old self. There is a scene in the movie, where Willis’ Ten year-old self is having a heart to heart with him, and the kid says: “I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I don’t have a dog; I grow up to be a loser”. I can’t help but cringe a little as I imagine a similar conversation between ten year-old me and adult me.
There are some who will say that moving to China was a milestone and a major accomplishment, and I would, to some extent, agree. However, it was one of the easy ones, if it was an accomplishment. Many people talk about moving to a foreign country, like it’s hard, and maybe for people other than me it is. For me moving to another was an adventure with only minor discomforts. The thing that hard for me is relationships, not so much the making friends part, but trusting people. Thanks to my upbringing, I have severe trust issues and an acute fear of rejection. I’m not trying to blame my parents for what I don’t have, but our experiences do shape us.
So what it is on to do with the realization that life is short and so much remains unaccomplished. For me I take the words spoken by William Wallace (Mel Gibson), in the movie Braveheart: “Every man dies, not every man truly lives”, as a challenge. And for me, right now, truly living means truly engaging. It means pursuing those relationships that might hurt, but that also might bring life.
I once heard it said that when we die our lives come down to three things on a headstone: our birth date, our death date, and a dash in the middle. The only things we have control over is the dash. Our first day and our last are already determined, what happens in between is up to us. In the end, we all gonna die, but its how we lived that will ultimately matter, make today count.