Traumatic events—I absolutely despise them.
They are exactly that: horrible, painful, traumatic, extremely heartbreaking, and just too real.
You open up an email to find out your friend passed away from cancer, you pick up the phone to get terrible news about an accident, you hear the sirens in front of your house because someone overdosed in their car across the street from you, you open the door to see destroyed homes due to a tornado, fire, or flooding. The list goes on, and it often seems endless.
You ask yourself why these things keep happening? And why are they so scarring (besides the obvious)?
Because they remind you how short and precious life truly is. It’s that exact awakening that makes us more alert than any over-caffeinated beverage would ever be capable of. You suddenly feel the blood rushing through your veins, your heart pounding in your chest, and you are intensely aware of your breathing. The comprehension: you are indeed human and mortal.
One life on this earth—our very existence is fleeting and always moving forward, no matter how hard we try to slow it down. We all have been given an expiration date from the precise moment we are born, but none of us knows when it is.
Why is that (oftentimes) only these horrid events remind us of our vulnerability and mortality?
It’s like some invisible force snaps its fingers in our face, or an annoying sound of an old-fashioned alarm clock buzzing unbearably loud, and it shakes us to our core, out of nowhere and unexpected. Those occurrences seem to scream “Helllooooo?! Are you there? Do you see now that life is short and not waiting on you?”
Yes! Yes, I do. And for a brief moment, I relive parts of my life where I wish I would have done things differently or will change immediately moving forward. Life doesn’t wait on anyone, myself included. It’s the reality and it sucks. Because it’s true.
But now what? Abandon life as I know it? Make people think I lost my mind? Give up any sense of security for my family by living “dangerously” and wild like I have nothing to lose but life itself?
How fair would that be for the people around me? Who rely on me? Who count on me to make them feel safe and secure? Who look for me to guide them toward a better life?
What about them? What about me? Why am I stuck between the Me Now, the Me I Should Be, and the Me I Could Be?
How do I blend them all together into a perfect fusion cocktail called life?
As much as life is short, precious, and full of opportunities, it is also often unfair, anxiety-producing, depressing, and restraining. Let’s face it, the latter sucks.
We always know more when we are young than what we know when we’re older. We think we have life figured out as teenagers, when often we are completely lost as adults. We were blinded by naïveté as teens and adolescents, and are catching up with reality as adults. We cry watching Disney movies and commercials because it’s the realization of what “could be” if we just allowed ourselves to pursue our deepest desires to achieve happiness.
Animated movies encourage us to step outside of our comfort zone and take the risk because it pays off. It does in the movie, but will it in real life? It’s misleading, we think, because we know life doesn’t work itself out so easily. No prince charming will rescue us, no flying carpet will take us on a wild and crazy journey, and no death of a parent will make us king of the land. We look around only to find reality not matching up with the newly acquired optimism of the movie plot.
Maybe upsetting and shocking events exist for our ability to do a self-check, an opportunity to recalibrate or reset, present a time warp ticket to a different starting point, to push us back (inwardly) to our true childish and dream-filled core. And maybe these events are telling us to take the shiny and colorful “true self” out of the museum’s glass case, dust it off, polish it, and connect it with our reality—to find a way to merge both worlds (realities) and live life to the fullest in all areas. We are as young as we feel, so why not also live out loud and fulfill our once imagined life?
Possible? Maybe. But we won’t ever know until we try to truly make the effort and fuse reality with our dreams.
Here today, gone tomorrow. The answer or solution is simple, yet a complicated puzzle of never-ending intertwined pathways. That’s why these moments of awakening after being confronted are often short-lived; the initial enthusiasm of making changes in our lives is halted by uncertainty, anxiety, and lack of guidance due to not truly knowing one’s purpose. In the end, we find ourselves in the same place—our comfort zone. We get mad at ourselves, but the unknown and what-ifs are just as painful as the witnessed distressing experiences.
Here are some questions, I believe, we need and should ask ourselves regularly:
1. Will I leave accumulated material stuff, including outstanding debt, or impactful results and legendary stories behind?
2. Am I actually enjoying and living life to the fullest or am I merely going through the motions like a hamster running on a wheel?
3. Am I living for myself or to please and meet other peoples’ expectations?
4. Am I burdening myself with unnecessary items to impress people I don’t even know?
5. Am I spending money on things I can’t afford or even need?
6. Am I making valuable and deep connections with people who I love and care about?
7. Am I satisfied with my life and circumstance and if not, what can I do to change things (what exact steps do I need to take)?
8. What actually brings me joy?
9. Who are the people who lift me up and elevate my life to its full potential?
10. What did I love but gave up due to life “just happening”? (Go back to that!)
If we truly allow ourselves to be honest and vulnerable in those quiet moments, we can learn a tremendous amount about ourselves and even rediscover parts of ourselves we directly or indirectly chose to leave behind.
The great thing about human beings is that we get to learn new things all the time, and can reinvent ourselves. We are never too old, too young, too tall, too small, or too late for anything. We truly have the power to change, but it’s up to us. What do you undoubtedly want out of life?
Let’s remember the negative events and the persons we lost, but instead of drowning ourselves in misery and sink deeper into darkness, let’s discover what we have learned and not only can but will do differently because of them. No matter what, you are here—the chances of you being chosen to live this life are as miraculous as life itself. My hope is that we always remember that.
Also, do not wait for anything terrible to happen before looking inward. Make the time regularly to review and assess your life and well-being. You owe it to yourself.
Life is what we make it, so let’s make it truly one of a kind—because it is.