Death at 30
My breathing becomes irregular, then labored, until my lungs cease to be filled with air. My heart pounds really fast, pumping more blood than it can normally compensate for. My system can no longer sustain the life it has been serving. Vital organs shut down one after another. My vision blurs, and everything fades to pitch black. There is no pain, but now I am all alone in this abyss.
This is just one of the many ways I envision my death, the thought of which does not frighten me. For some the topic is taboo, but I have always been fascinated by it. I was raised by my grandmother, and a peaceful and painless death was always part of her evening prayer. This could have been an unconscious desensitization; I grew up thinking that death is something for which we should plan and to which we should somehow look forward.
I have actually premeditated that I would be dead by 30. It may seem morbid, but this self-imposed deadline is based on my assumption that life would not persuade me to stay longer anyway. It has given me a sense of urgency to be content with what I have. I also have this mindset that 30 years are enough for me to realize my purpose and to fulfill it, someway, somehow.
My relatives say I am a spitting image of my grandfather. They say this may be why my grandmother was so fond of me. He died of a heart attack at the age of 30 in Wake Island, and this has contributed to my theory that my premeditated death could be plausible. The only thing I cannot control is the manner by which I will die. It could be metaphorical, or it could be real, but either way I am certain it would occur at that age.
Since I grew up somehow isolated from my immediate family, I was forced to rely on myself. But Lola did everything to ensure that I would survive her absence. Perhaps I was her revenge at life: She wanted me to be ready when her time came, because she was not when she lost my grandfather. She often told me to learn to take care of myself and be mindful of my decisions. These were her priorities; it’s as if she knew—and it would surely pain her—that I would be struggling after her demise. So I did everything I could on my own: I learned all the chores, excelled in my studies, got a job after I graduated, and climbed the career ladder.
I was content where my life was going until that fateful day when Lola passed away.
Truth be told, I never thought her death would catch me off-guard. For years she had comfortably brought it up in our conversations, yet it did not make her death any less painful to process. I was in denial, and it took a while before the realization of her death fully sank in. If it’s any consolation, Lola got what she wished for—a painless death. But it took a heavy toll on me.
I didn’t know it then, but a part of me died on that day, too.
To cope, I searched for ways to prevent the pain from recurring. But is it ever possible for someone to be emotionally prepared for a loved one’s passing? To accept it as simply one of life’s harsh realities that we have to get over with? The memory has made it hard for me to build deep, meaningful relationships. I do not want to experience again the emptiness I felt when I lost her.
I tried to know and focus on what my generation goes through to cope. We millennials live each day and rarely plan for tomorrow; we are programmed to think that the next day could be the last and it would be futile to invest in an apocalyptic future. We are the “Yolo” generation, and we don’t care about the money we have to spend to travel or to buy a luxurious indulgence, just so we can taste the best that life can offer. We are in a rush to experience it all, and life seems too limited to do everything there is to be done.
“This is what my life should be; I should not die by 30,” I told myself. And having identified myself with my generation, I momentarily forgot about my planned death.
Likewise, I tried to live as society expected of me. But with so many things to do, what should I prioritize? I was raised to think that I was special and that I could conquer anything I set my mind to. But just when I thought I had everything figured out, the flame inside me died little by little, with every rejection and frustration that came my way. I juggled all the demanding tasks my job required of me. I tried doing it all with all my heart, sweat, tears and blood combined, while keeping my integrity.
Yet slowly, the joy of life escaped me. I was burned out. I thought I could change the world if I would just believe so, but reality punched me hard: The life I long for—a life where you can keep your principles and work gives you dignity—does not exist.
I seem to be stuck in this loop of going through the motions like a robot, with so many questions remaining unanswered. These are the struggles of a millennial: the never-ending quest of self-discovery and of finding our place in this world.
My premeditated death had kept me on my toes. But now I seem to have spent all my time doing what society dictates. A planned death can only be my wishful thinking. While I don’t fear death per se, I fear the oblivion that comes with it. I don’t want to leave the world without it knowing that I existed, and that my existence meant something.
But it may be too late for me at this point. I have only afew days left.
In a tiny corner in this bustling metro, I’ll be in my imagined abyss of deafening stillness, unaware of the things around me, struggling to survive. This may be the phase where I have to let go of the planned death that has long died together with my dreams. Maybe survival outweighs one’s ideals. Maybe, just maybe, survival precedes anything else.
They say 30 is the age of limits and transitions. Yet, I still haven’t fully discovered what I should do, or where I should be. And this could be the scariest part of nearing death, when we ask: Have I done any good in my lifetime? Have I made any difference in this world? Have I given justice to what I am here for?
If anything, my preconceived death has given me a sense of direction, and the thought of it is reassuring. I may not have been successful in leaving the mark that I wanted, but it did help knock some sense into my being that maybe it was symbolic, too—not just of the death of my youthful idealism but also of the death of the pain of losing Lola, of endless heartbreaks and disappointments, in my career, relationships, purpose, and life in general.
As I lie down tonight, a line in one of the TV series I follow will echo in my head: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” Indeed, what do I know about life? Am I really living, or am I dead?
Maybe a metaphorical death is what I exactly need at this time. And maybe a metaphorical rebirth shall soon follow. Or so I hope.
Marvin Delco A. Tamondong, a registered nurse and social health insurance advocate, says he will turn 30—past the Young Blood age limit—on Nov. 11.
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