Life's Final Milestone

I haven't written in quite some time, and though I probably should write something about the goings on at work... with the nutty clients, and fractious cats, and nice adoptable pit mixes, or perhaps something about my new job (substitute teaching) or even my complete failing to get the jobs that really matter to me, I have an idea sort of stuck in my head.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine came down to celebrate her 25th birthday with us. 25 isn't really that big a deal, I mean you get to drive a rental car (and if you are willing to pay more you were able to do that a few years ago), but that's about it. I did mention to my friends the one thing that I think does change when you start hitting those higher numbers. It becomes less and less sad to strangers when you die.
I've thought about this a bit before. News Media and the like will make a sad story of a person's death if say they were under 20, but as soon as you are older than that, it no longer seems to be a big deal. I don't understand this. In the case of a child, it really is unfair. They didn't get the opportunity to even realize what they could do in their lives, much less get to do the things they want to. As people grow older though they have a greater understanding of what is possible to do with their lives, and what it takes to accomplish those things. So being 24, I know that there are many people older than me that do not get the opportunity to do the things that I have done in my relatively short life, but they don't necessarily have the resources to do those things. To me that is what makes death unfortunate, and I do think there are many people who will die in their 40's and older who did not get to do as much with their lives as the would have liked to, and would potentially trade those 40 years of their lifetime to live the 24 of mine. There are also people younger than me that have lived "fuller" lives than I have.

I was thinking the other day (with the possibility of career changes and all) about what it is that makes a death sad after a person turns 20. All deaths are sad. Yes, but there is a difference between the story a single man who works at a gas station and volunteers with a local fire department having a heart attack, and the father dying in a car crash on his way home from working at a hospital. Admitted different people will always identify with different stories, but I think there are some specific things that people look for, and use as cues to feel sympathy for a person's death. Now because I think most people want to be missed, they want to be remembered, and probably want to have their life's work outlive them, it makes me wonder how many people actually make their life choices anticipating their eventual demise. By that I don't mean having a will and a life insurance policy, I mean the other day I found myself thinking if I die and I am still doing this job, how would I feel about that?

I think that my personal priorities in life are not the things that would necessarily get me sympathy in an obituary. I hope to work in environmentalism, specifically in China (no sympathy). I am considering going the teaching route (sympathy points!) because that way I could also stay connected with the other things I am enthusiastic about, science and technical theatre (no sympathy there). The thing is up until yesterday I wasn't really even thinking about how I lead my life day to day, and the small decisions that I can make that would make my life more fruitful in the long run. I'm in fact pretty terrible with those types of decisions, I watch a lot of television, and spend quite a bit of my time doing a lot of nothing, and I think that perhaps keeping the final milestone in mind, I might be a little more consiencious of how I use my time and won't end up being 40 and equally unproductive at using my time consciously .

No comments: