I think death is one of life’s greatest mysteries — one I used to fear. Analyzing my view of death over the past year has made me realize that I must create the life I love now.
For years, my mind has explored the concept of the afterlife. What happens next? Does it really all come to an abrupt uncinematic end?
This curiosity surrounding death started in my childhood. I loved exploring the diverse ideas of religious afterlife, and found comfort in knowing my soul may go on after death. However, as time passed, I became increasingly fearful of the unknown. Suddenly, discomfort froze my thoughts and actions when I thought of anything but the present.
Many people propose that you create a meaningful life by building a legacy before you pass. This approach demands us to design a purposeful future for ourselves and to never stop working towards it.
You can find this thinking in students too. We have become reliant on long-term goals that mean we follow a prewritten life. It goes something like this: you will attend college for a certain amount of years, start a family and have the career of your dreams.
In reality, these plans almost never go uninterrupted.
I, too, find myself dreaming about the future and the impending happy life I will eventually live, and forget the present.
That’s why death intimidates me — because it destroys my plan of future success and happiness. In this past year, I have confronted this fear with curiosity, which has led to more uncertainty and only a sliver of comfort. But it has made me realize that instead of concentrating on the later, I should focus on the now.
If I passed tomorrow, I would not be content with my time on Earth.
This past year, I have spiraled into a dangerous routine of motivating myself to hold on only in hope that the future will be better. I comfort myself and manage the stress of the future with phrases like “next week will be better” and “it is almost summer — just hold on.” In this process, I have failed to appreciate the joyful moments hidden in everyday life. I have become distanced from myself, playing the role of an outsider peering in.
Like for many, the pandemic has made me depend even more on the hope for a miracle future of better times, but it has also encouraged me to reassess my dependence on the idea of future success and happiness.
I must create a life I love now to be able to achieve my goals in the future. If I continue to live my life in stages rather than taking stock of the whole, I will never be content. I will continue to find myself wishing for the next day, week and year until my whole life has passed without me living it.
Transforming my mindset has allowed me to refocus on being happy in everyday life. I find myself looking for the positives in every stressful day and endless week. I have begun to feel free and I finally enjoy my days, though I still have a long way to go.
Ultimately, I desire to create a life I would love to live every single day.
While my anxiety about the end still lingers, I know I am on the right path. I refuse to let anxiety about the future dampen my quality of life in the present. Today is a gift.
This op-ed was written by a University of Saskatchewan undergraduate student and reflects the views and opinions of the writer. If you would like to write a reply, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Rourke Wunder-Buhr is a first-year undergraduate student studying kinesiology. She is also a founder of Project Grow Saskatoon — a non-profit organization committed to involving youth in environmental sustainability initiatives province-wide.