Grateful for the present moment

The Philippine Star

A 17-year-old mulls the meaning of life & death

MANILA, Philippines – At 17, I often encounter puzzled looks when I bring up the subject of death — a subject that, due to my youth, I’m expected to know nothing about or even consider on a regular basis. Yet the sad truth is, I do.

I contemplate mortality frequently but how can I escape it? How can I avoid a topic that has permeated the media so profoundly? One only needs to check the news to see some appalling image of dead bodies strewn around like confetti. The show Game of Thrones has even found success by depicting gruesome and unexpected deaths, captivating the millions of Westeros-fanatics across the globe.

Death seems so commonplace nowadays as media fodder that perhaps society has grown desensitized to the value of individual life. Sure, we are moved when we hear about a mass killing on the other side of the world, but do we ever really take a step back and reevaluate what it means to be alive? Personally, I never did, but this changed when I experienced death on a more personal level.

Earlier this year, a classmate decided to take his own life; he was 18. He was young, handsome and incredibly talented that the world seemed ripe with opportunity for him. He was a friend of my brother, yet we had barely shared any interaction aside from brief conversations during our school magazine meetings and glanced greetings across a crowded hallway. Soft-spoken and introverted, he was a young man of few words, yet he possessed insight evident in his nuanced writing that I was incredibly envious of. He firmly believed in the power of writing as a tool to ignite change, and now I share this idealistic, nonetheless noble, sentiment. When I hear the age-old proverb “only the good die young,” I immediately think of him.

So, although I am young and looking forward to a lifetime of opportunities, I take every day as a blessing, regardless of how cliché that sounds. As human beings, it is only natural to worry about tomorrow, plan every minute detail down to the precise second, eliminating all uncertainty. However, if we fail to recognize the beauty of today, the blessing known as “life” is rendered useless. Since the future is never certain, tomorrow stands on shaky ground.

This is why I take the time every day to allow myself space to breathe. Yes, I know all you high school seniors currently applying to college may gasp in horror but believe me, when we look back at our lives 20 years from now, we won’t remember the nights spent at home studying for a test until the break of dawn. What we will remember are the friends we make and the laughter we shared. Horribly cliché again I know, but maybe the cheesy Hallmark cards peddled to us have a point: Live every day like it’s your last because, who knows, it very well could be. Therefore, be kind. Be grateful. And don’t take things too seriously. At the end of the day, all we have is this present moment, so we should treat it as such — a priceless gift.












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