We all lead fast lives. Most of us can barely find time to go to class, do our work, stay healthy and maintain at least some semblance of a social life. With all of this to keep us incredibly busy, we rarely take the time to take a step back and look at our lives. As Socrates said, “a life unexamined is not worth living.” I’ve always thought that I was the kind of person to take Socrates’ advice to heart, but it was not until recently that I truly did so.
Not too long ago, I had a near death experience that landed me in the hospital. This not only made me painfully aware of my own mortality, but it also forced me to think deeply about what’s really important in my life and what I want to get out of it.
As young people in our late teens and early twenties, we tend to think of ourselves as somewhat invincible. We think that we can do whatever we want and that we won’t have to pay the price. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course, I was always aware that I could and would die at some point, but there is a difference between knowing and understanding. My experience made me fully aware that my life could be cut short in the blink of an eye without warning. Because we can never know when our time is going to come, we have to live every day to the fullest. I know that we’ve all had our parents, teachers and coaches preach that to us our entire lives, but I now understand that this is really the truth.
By virtue of being at Colgate, we are all ambitious people looking to the future. We constantly worry about getting into grad school or finding a well-paying job upon graduation, but we should try to focus on the present as well. We have a propensity to see college as a mere stepping stone to finally getting to live our own lives, but we should see this time in our lives as valuable in and of itself and not just as a means to something greater. There’s no guarantee that we will make it to tomorrow, so we have to see our time in college now as precious.
We all know that we should appreciate the people that care about us—our friends and our family—but I have never appreciated them more than I do now. Seeing how worried my friends here, my whole family at home (second cousins and all) and all of my family’s friends were when they heard that I might not make it, really made it sink in how important I am to these people. The next day, I texted many of them to let them know how much I appreciate them. I’m not sure why this is not something that we do more often. I was never the kind of person to take the time to do this, but now I’m becoming that kind of person. These people, I now see, are really the most important thing in life. Money, power and material things—these are all trivial compared to the people that we care about.
It’s all too easy to desire these things, though, and I often find myself too concerned with them. My experience, however, has forced me to deeply consider what I want out of life. We can spend our lives trying to accumulate wealth, but at the end of day, does that really matter? As they say, you can’t take it with you when you’re gone. Even if I died incredibly wealthy, I wouldn’t feel fulfilled. Instead, I’ve realized that I would rather feel like I have made some sort of positive change in the world. When it comes down to it, if I can accomplish this and keep myself surrounded with good and loving people, I think that I could rightfully say that I lived a good life.
Contact Jace DeMar at [email protected]