At 17, I made a promise to myself that I would live each day to its fullest.
Of course, at 17, it was mostly a fun promise aggregating to partying until 2 a.m., going to swim practice at 7, working my summer job, and repeating the cycle seven days a week.
For me, it had always meant squeezing the most life out of every possible day, like wringing a wet shirt until there was not a droplet left. I wanted to know that if there were no tomorrow, I couldn’t have fit one more thing into any day that I had lived.
As I got older, the circle of friends, partying and laughter never ceased, but the days of swim team and summer jobs gave way to a grown-up career, cocktails I could actually afford to buy and spontaneous travel. Life got better; I felt alive. Every day and every night felt alight with the opportunity to experience something unexpected.
I don’t know when or why things seemed to shift, but suddenly the excitement, the new and the fresh seemed to fade. And the nights filled with surprises became almost expected. To be discluded was disappointing, but to have another night out had simply became that: another night out. The career became predictable with its laddered steps stretched forth. Another trip; another place, and I became preoccupied with the fear that the colors of a new location would soon start to blend with the familiar and somehow be less bright. When did the days start to feel like they were filed with cheap thrills to amuse myself, as I slowly waited for the ribbon of time to pass by.
It had never been like that before.
No, my life had always been lived with perpetual fear of death, of an eternal unconsciousness. Falling into the abyss and not knowing if I would ever emerge from the wormhole—that was my motivation for living. That there would never be enough time to do all the things I wanted to do. That I would sit on my deathbed with the regret that I didn’t pursue a dream that I had wanted so dearly.
I think this is the feeling of the mind numbing to shallow pursuits. It’s the same image I conjure of lazy afternoon cocktails to alleviate boredom for the lack of anything better to do. No visceral passion. No desperation for success. This is the allegory of Plato’s cave where life is comfortable, and indeed there is a couch, a nice TV, and all your friends are there. It’s easy and stable, and never what I wanted of life.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful about an easy transition in adulthood. I’ve been lucky to have this life that so many dream of, that I had once dreamed of. But I am not them, and they are not me.