Aegean to Appleton: On the Shortness of Life

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Throughout various times in my life, when everything seemed to be progressing surprisingly well for me, the sound of a doorbell, a phone call or a text message would always serve as an ominous sign. Here at Lawrence, I have had a fair share of great opportunities and timeless experiences even as a freshman. Then, I received the phone call.

My grandmother, one of the people who nurtured me for the past 17 years, had died at the age of 88. A friend of mine once told me that, “as you get old, life becomes a story of other people’s passing.” I want to believe that the individual whose words I am quoting was trying to encourage me to appreciate the people around me while I still have time to do so.

Being away from home at the time of this occurrence, I felt as if I was completely desolate; a profound feeling of loneliness conquered my body as whole, and the surreal nature of mortality rocked me to my core. I felt helpless and useless simultaneously. Speechless as I was, cold sweat started rolling down my forehead. I had no desire to do anything. After a significant amount of time, I managed to force myself to sleep.

Eventually, after a few days had gone by, I started pondering matters such as mortality, individuality and death. I have recently come to the conclusion that one of the noblest goals in life is to cherish every single moment of every single day. It might sound, at least initially, like a cliché, but it represents a good guiding principle. By not being wasteful of our time, we are able to appreciate the things that we would have otherwise taken for granted. People, ideas, places — if we are not aware of how temporary everything is, then we will never be able to form meaningful, lasting memories.

As teenagers and young adults, I think that we often fail to realize the finiteness of life. Most of us live as if there’s no tomorrow, completely unaware of the time we spend pointlessly. We are oftentimes consumed by various emotions — most of which are inexplicably complex — and end up dazed and confused.

As a student, I have experienced numerous moments when I felt that I was out of control and that everything was moving too fast. I have also experienced several incredibly joyous moments, as well. In times of really strong emotions like these, I try to pause whatever it is that I am doing and say, “This. Don’t you forget this,” and then I will make time to write a small journal entry about what I am going through at that moment.

I find these crushing moments to be terrifying; whenever they occur, it feels as if a curtain has been pulled back, revealing something I had not thought about previously, revealing how fast everything is moving relative to my ability to capture each moment.

Revisiting what my friend had once told me, I think that life only becomes a story of other people’s passing only when we fail to embrace it as a whole and to seek meaning in our day-to-day experiences. What about you? How do you combat crushing moments?