I used to be scared of dying.
I’m still scared of dying. But when I was twelve, the fear was an illness, a reality my mind refused to let go of. One time, I was convinced that I had cancer. I cried myself to sleep for an entire week, too frightened to even tell my parents. Another time, I was certain I would suffer a brain aneurysm sometime in the near future. I resigned myself to the fact that I would die without knowing that I was dying.
The fear is still there in the back of my head somewhere, it manifests itself as giddiness whenever I cross a large expanse of water by plane, or on a bridge. You see, now I’m scared of drowning to death never mind that I’m a reasonably good swimmer.
All these thoughts were brought to the forefront by a speech I recently listened to. It was Steve Jobs speaking to Stanford graduates, and he spoke of his encounter with a rare pancreatic cancer that the doctors were initially convinced he’d never survive. He did survive but it reaffirmed for him a principle he’d learnt to live by: Live everyday like it’s your last. I’d heard these words before. In fact, they’d lost their meaning through over-use. But for some reason, this time, it sunk in.
He said, and I paraphrase, every morning, look into the mirror and ask yourself “If today was my last day, would I want to do what I’m about to?”. If the answer is no, too many times in a row, then you have a problem. The question haunts me. Because I want my answer always to be yes. Always. Thing is, I’m not sure how to ensure that without bungling it, getting overrun by the wrong ideals or just plain disillusioned.
And so, I’m gonna take it one step at a time. Small gestures. Before I leave home in the morning, I will give my still drowsy Dad and sibs, cheery farewells. I will wink at my reflection in the mirror. On the bus, I will raise my thoughts and mind to my Creator, I will run all my plans and my schedule by Him and ask Him not to let me wander too far. I will let my family and friends know I love them; notes, letters, phone calls.
I will do one thing everyday to bring me closer to my goals.
I may temporarily accept less, but will refuse to settle with it.
I will do exactly what I feel like when I want to. I will trust my conscience, sense of propriety and upbringing to make sure I don’t do the wrong stuff. I will reject crowd mentality and mediocrity, and not let my fear of being unpopular or poverty overrule my sense of ‘right’.
Above all, I will stay hungry and foolish. Hungry so I always remember where I’m coming from, and stay motivated to succeeding. And foolish, so that I’ll always attempt the impossible.