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Wednesday, June 07, 2023

As college students, we think we’re immortal. Not in the “guzzles-a-four-pack-of-Red-Bull-and-jumps-of-a-roof” type of way, though. Of course, those people are out there. We think we’re immortal because of how far we plan ahead. We pick our majors with a rough idea of what we want to do with our lives. We have an idea of where we want to live and what industry we want to work in, for the most part. By the time we reach our last academic year, we more or less have an outline of the exact job we’re going to get and how we’re going to get it. We think we’re immortal because we are assuming nothing happens to us before we get there.

Statistically, most of us will live to about 78.8 years of age and raise 1.87 children. It’s a long shot that something gets cut short, especially in our college years, when we’re actively planning our futures and making sure that we have the satisfying, financially secure lives of which we’ve always dreamed. The idea of death seems so far removed; we do have, on average, at least another 50 or so years, so there’s no point in worrying about what comes next when we should be focusing on what those 50 years can be.

The thing is, sometimes, we don’t have that luxury.

We try to ignore it, of course, with each article that surfaces about another college-aged person dying tragically young. It’s easier when it’s someone we don’t know. Faces on television screens and online articles will tug at our heartstrings for a moment, but immediately we turn away. Sometimes, it’s harder. Sometimes, it’s a friend from high school in the hospital with a poor prognosis. Sometimes, it’s a friend of a friend involved in a tragic accident. Sometimes, the very weight of our own mortality comes to hit us right in the face, and we feel like we can’t get up. And we ignore it. We push it down and tell ourselves it won’t happen to us.

But we shouldn’t do that.

Here’s the truth: We are all going to die. Hopefully, not for another 50 years, but we will all the same.

According to Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years caring for patients in the final 12 weeks of their lives, the most common regrets of the dying are eerily similar. They include not keeping in contact with friends, not being true to themselves, living a life others expected of them, working too much and not letting themselves be happier.

That last one sinks in.

We tell ourselves we have 50 years to do all that stuff, that we won’t have those same regrets. But what if we don’t?

We should be living lives we won’t regret, whether that means going ahead and going out to that party instead of doing schoolwork because you’ve been too afraid to go out — or in the opposite spectrum, gritting your teeth and getting schoolwork done because you’ve been too scared of the hard work. There’s always something floating around we want to do but, for whatever reason, we put off.

Now this doesn’t mean we should all drop out of school and hitchhike across the country or incessantly party and forget about responsibilities. This also doesn’t mean we should live our lives in fear of death. What we should do is let ourselves be happier, let the lives we lead become closer to the ones we want to lead and plan for the future, but also remember to do something today that we would be proud of should we not get a tomorrow.

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