Nobody knows (with very rare exceptions) when our time on this earth will come to an end. Most of us are not very conscious of this. I think about death a lot compared to the average person, but even so I had found myself blindsided sometimes.
Last week while undergoing an ultrasound I had found myself thinking: what if something is really wrong? What if I discover I have only months to live? Perhaps one may think this is extreme paranoia, but it is the reality for many people who have to live with their new realities upon an unfavourable medical diagnosis.
I am very afraid of my loved ones dying, so I have been trying to live in a way that would minimise regrets for myself if one day the unfortunate should happen. But what if I am the one going to die?
There is a lot of contradictory feelings and thoughts. Having been chronically suicidal I have assumed that I would face my death with a sense of relief. But last week while contemplating my own death I have felt a sense of profound sadness. I would be relieved still, no doubt about that, but there will be a lot I will miss.
And I think I have transformed into a person who has something to miss instead of somebody who felt like she had nothing to lose, precisely because of all the personal changes I have gone through in the past few years alone.
So, I am going to write a letter every now and then. I am not sure how frequent the interval should be, but it would be at least once a year. If I do suddenly die, this is what I would want people to know. I also think this is a great opportunity to take stock of my life and seriously reflect on it.
reflecting on the life I’ve lived
I think I have had a full, great life, despite my chronic suicidal tendencies. I could argue that I have had a full, great life, because of my chronic suicidal tendencies. I am not saying that it is good to be chronically suicidal, please don’t take this the wrong way. I cannot have known otherwise, because there is no option for me to turn this setting off. But from my own personal biased point of view, my detachment to life in general had been a very powerful compass in terms of how I choose to live my life.
Do I want to feel like killing myself, or do I make this very painful choice to do this very painful thing? This has been my decision making process for every major decision I have made in my life. Dropping out of school, quitting jobs, leaving relationships, burning bridges, moving across oceans, disappointing the people who love me, any unconventional choice away from the mainstream.
I am not trivialising or downplaying my chronic suicidal tendencies. Each and every time I feel like killing myself, I cannot find the words to describe the pits I have been in. I don’t know how I have managed to dig myself out of those pits all those times. A lot of tears, a lot of crumbling, a lot of whys, a lot of self-hatred, a lot of my heart getting broken, a lot of numbing, a lot of parts of me slowly dying.
I have many scars, many of them self-inflicted. In my every day life now I struggle to become a person who is capable of living above those scars. I am haunted by my past, my fears, my neuroses, my previous tormentors, my own torment, every single day. I can barely look at the mirror, and I don’t find myself likeable. I can hardly bear to like myself.
Still, I have had a full, great life, given the variables and conditions I have had. I can think of people who had accomplished a lot more than me, but I know I have accomplished everything I can possibly accomplish given how paralysed I feel most of the time. I have learned not to compare myself with other people, despite the culture I have been raised in. It took me a very long time, but thanks to some great dead humans before me, I have learned that there is no point comparing the value of an insect to a fish.
In spite of my limitations, whether given or self-inflicted, I would like to think I have tried my best to live. I did whatever I thought was right for me with the limited knowledge I had at any given point in time. I made a lot of mistakes, hurt a lot of people, hurt myself a lot, but in exchange for all of that I experienced an array of experiences I couldn’t have had otherwise.
Yet when the time came I have also learned to stay when it mattered. To learn the value of commitment and what it means to live as though I am in it for the long-haul. I am still learning this lesson.
I would like to think I am still in the infancy of developing some decent emotional maturity, and I apologise to anyone who have suffered at the consequences of my immaturity. If I should die prematurely, I would be disappointed at being unable to know the person I could have become, given more doses of ageing.
I am thankful for the privilege I have been given, and exceptionally thankful I am now wise enough to recognise it. I have faced several limitations in my life but socio-economic privilege is not one of them. I remain incredulous at humanity for thinking inequality is acceptable and not seeing the potential we are missing through it, and if I remain alive I would like to continue contemplating deeply about this. I want to acknowledge that even though I had faced limitations my socio-economic privilege gave me opportunities to rise above them, and I am upset that not everyone can have the same array of opportunities.
I have led a very lucky life. Maybe I could say I was lucky because I took the necessary risks to place myself in the route of luck. I think a certain amount of that is true, but it is also true that for every person who took the risks and got lucky, there are countless others who took the same risks and didn’t get lucky.
I got to meet some of my personal hero(in)es, and I even got to work with some of them, and even though I have come to realise that the notion of heroes in society is unhealthy, and that no matter how heroic they are they are still very much flawed human beings like the rest of us, I feel grateful I got to experience it first-hand. I no longer believe in hero(in)es though (because I think it discourages active participation for the ordinary individual).
At the end, the great lesson of life is that what truly matters is learning to live well. Perhaps living well differs from person to person. For me, it is to know who I am, be capable of expressing that into the world, and to reduce unnecessary suffering. It is also to know that a lot of unnecessary suffering is generated through poor self-awareness and poor knowledge of the human psyche.
If I were to live life all over knowing what I know now, I would not pursue accomplishments, approval, validation, statuses. I would start learning to live well, right from the very beginning. I would learn to appreciate the act of living itself, the unfolding of life. I would spend a lot less time wondering about the meaning of life and the meaning of my existence. That perhaps the meaning of life cannot be known intellectually – it has to be lived fully, to be experienced as a phenomenon.
But if I am given the choice to live life again: would I? At this point, I am not sure. I have lived a great, full life in spite of everything, but I am not sure if I want to do it all over again.
Being alive, hurts. Being fully alive, hurts a lot. I am tired.
what I would miss if I were to die today
I would miss my partner, most of all. I would hate that she would have to carry on without me (but she’ll be fine, eventually). That at this point now we are only three years old, and there is so much more to unfold. I would miss the opportunity to deepen our love, to live through difficult experiences together, to experience growing old together. I would miss witnessing her unfolding. I would miss us being together.
I would also resent that the elders in my life would have to bear with my passing before them. I hope they know despite of all my personal limitations I have done my best to love them.
My friends, my poor friends. I apologise for ghosting every so often because of my health, introversion, my desire to be a hermit and my inability to handle too many interactions. I don’t deserve their friendship, and I hope they find better friends than me.
I would miss witnessing the indomitable spirit of some human beings, their ingenuity, their compassion, and their will to survive, thrive even, in the circumstances they have been given. But I am not sure if living life to witness this is worth putting up with the rest. If I remain alive, I hope to change my mind.
I would miss knowing if I had lived a long enough life, would I change my mind about life being worth living? But not knowing wouldn’t kill me.
I don’t have many regrets apart from not being able to spend more time with the people I love. Would I regret not seeing some of my experiments come to fruition, or not knowing what I could have made as I learn more as I age? A little bit, but work is at the end, just work. I think I have expressed most of the basic ideas of what I would like to exist in this world and if I didn’t live to make them it wouldn’t kill me. I would be sad if I didn’t even try to express them at all.
As I have mentioned above, I would miss knowing who I could have become, especially since it has only been a few years that I have started on this journey of personal experimentation. I would like to have known what it feels like to be physically fit, and if my brain would ever become a life-loving brain instead of a chronically depressed one. I would have liked to develop this framework of living well further, more than anything else I could have worked on (wow I wasn’t conscious of this until I wrote this).
Overall till date, I think I have lived a great, full life. I have done a lot of the things I wanted, and I have everything I can possibly wish to have, except good health.
If I survive to write more incarnations of this, I hope I will be able to reaffirm this sentiment over and over again: that I have lived a great, full life. I hope I’ll never have to wonder about too many what ifs. That I will always be actively living to minimise any potential regrets.
If I live a long enough life, I think it would be interesting to look at all the changes in these incarnations over the years.