I turned 31 last weekend. Society tells me I’m supposed to feel something about that. Panic, maybe, that the good years are behind me. Forty is fast approaching and after forty is basically death.
The thing is, we die a little every day.
Am I preoccupied with death? I… don’t think so, although perhaps the books on my nightstand recently would say something different (The Denial of Death, Civilized to Death, How Not to Die). If I am, it’s certainly not a new preoccupation–ten years ago, my final paper for a college English course was about fear of mortality in eighteenth through twentieth century American literature. At the time, I was also taking psychology courses on Terror Management Theory, which posits that most human action is done to mitigate the ever-present fear of death.
In my day job, I work for a medical malpractice attorney and I see how quickly things can go from normal life to nightmare.
Okay, so maybe I think about death a little more than the average person.
My partner and I were joking about my birthday and how I’m “old” now (his favorite joke, as he is nearly four months younger than me). He might have said something about how it was the beginning of the end. But I seem to be living life in reverse–the end has already passed.
My naughts, I said, were all about control–my lack thereof.
I had a little more agency in my teens, but my life was ruled by school and homework.
In my twenties, I found myself and learned what I don’t want out of life.
My thirties, I told him, are the beginning of the beginning.
The thing about death is that it could happen any time. I asked myself if I died today, would I be happy with the life I’ve lived? The frank answer is no. That’s a hard thing to admit because it implies wasted time.
I am taking control of my life this year. I’m making big changes in the way I live, work, and relax. A few weeks ago, I thought about my goals for one year, and five years, and ten years from now, and wrote them down.
This year I am going to spend more time writing, reading, and creating art. I am going to submit my novel Fog and Glass to literary agents and rewrite Secret Project #1. I am going to spend more time with my family, my partner’s family, and friends I haven’t seen in far too long.
I am going to be patient.
I am going to be present.
I am going to be compassionate.
I am going to be honest.
I am going to live intentionally.