Spring is the season of new birth, followed closely by the child-rearing months of summer. Over the last several months, I’ve been watching as miniature animals pop up everywhere. The number of quail, geese, ground squirrels, night hawks, and king snakes seem to multiply as mothers give birth to the next generation.
Yet, the increased number of animals living in the densely-populated city means that a higher number of creatures fall prey to human factors. Daredevil quail dart across busy intersections, leading their youth to an untimely death. Baby ground squirrels wander off to explore their environment and unwittingly meet a neighboring house-cat. A playful dog captures a lizard as a gift for its master, and a harmless snake slithers too close to a protective father.
I recently learned that I’ve been harboring an infectious disease in my body for nearly four years, undetected. At it’s current stage, the infection has a 28% chance of killing me. I’m not worried about dying right now because I’m working with the best doctors and they are monitoring me like crazy.
What I am thinking about is the inverse–the 72% survival rate. Assuming that I’ll make it through this and emerge a stronger and wiser version of myself, I’ve been asking myself questions about life satisfaction. What might I do differently if I knew I was going to die tomorrow or next year? When it’s time for me to say goodbye, what will I regret if I don’t make changes now?
My cousin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer on the cusp of 30 and passed away within a year. Somehow, he remained a positive force throughout his suffering and I often wonder how he came to find that inner peace. He was the kind of person who chased every whim and truly followed his heart, so I think his calm came from living exactly as he wanted every single day–no regrets.
When I reflect on my own life, there are things I would do differently if I knew my own demise was imminent. Maybe I would muster up the courage to quit my job or mend a broken relationship. Perhaps I would travel or finally pursue my dream to start a business. I would take the time to say thank you to every person who has ever impacted me. I think that any of these actions would bring me closer to my authentic self and allow me to experience life more fully and with more depth.
Contemplating our mortality can be a powerful catalyst for change. People often avoid talking about death, as it exposes one of our deepest fears. However, it’s a well-established fact that each of us will eventually die, whether tomorrow or 100 years from now. Considering the inevitability of death gives us the opportunity to explore the end-of-life questions right now, and to adjust our course accordingly.
If you knew you were going to die a year from today, what would you do differently? Perhaps, think about implementing that change today and beginning your own journey towards a more fulfilling life.