Monday, September 8, 2008

Musings of my older self

What would you do right now if you learned that you're going to die in an hour? Would you race to your room and light that joint you've been hiding in your underwear drawer since Martial Law? Would you run into your boss' office and give him a detailed description of his personal defects? Would you drive out to the finest steakhouse and order a T-bone, medium rare, with an extra side dish of really bad cholesterol? It's hard to tell, of course, but of all the things that we might do in our final hour, it's safe to say that few of them are the things we really did today.

This reminds me of an advice I hear so often---live every minute of your life as though it were your last. The things we do when we expect to live longer are naturally different from the things we might do if we expect to die soon. We go easy on the fats, booze and cigarettes, laugh dutifully at yet another of our boss' stupid jokes, work until midnight when we could be sitting barefoot in the garden and eating chocolates in bed, and we do each of these things to benefit the people we will soon become. 

I plead guilty to the things mentioned above. I treat my future self as though it’s a kid, spending most of my time building tomorrows that I hope will make that kid happy. Rather than indulging in whatever strike my fancy, I take responsibility for the welfare of my future, saving away portions of my paychecks each month so I can enjoy my retirement, try to exercise and having my blood sugar checked regularly so I avoid heart disease, diabetes and whatnot. When I want something---a car, a beach house, a promotion, a quarter-pounder, a partner---I expect that if I get it, then the person who has my DNA, will enjoy the world she would inherit from me, revere my sacrifices as she reaps the harvest of my clever decisions and dietary restraint.

I don’t have children but I’ve been hearing parents complain how ungrateful some children are. And like those ungrateful children, most of us are often thankless to our younger selves. We drag ourselves to work everyday to give our kids what we think they like---only to be accused 20 years from now that we have ruined their lives.

No one enjoys being criticized, but if the things I successfully strive for do not make my older self happy then it seems reasonable to cast a mocking glace backward and wonder--- what the hell I was thinking?! How can this happen? Shouldn't I know the desires, tastes, needs and choices of the person I will be next year, or at least later this evening? Shouldn't I understand my future self well enough to shape her life---to find careers and lovers whom she will cherish, to invest in things that she will treasure for years to come? So why does she end up with treasure chests and a life that are full of stuff that I considered indispensable and that she considers painful, embarrassing, or even useless? Why does she criticizes my choice of romantic partners, second-guess my strategies for career advancement, and pay good money to remove the tattoos that I paid hard-earned money to get? Why does she experience regret and relief when she thinks of me, rather than pride and appreciation? Is there something wrong with her?

Or is there something wrong with me?

"The future is an opaque mirror. Anyone who tries to look into it sees nothing but the dim outlines of an old and worried face."
~ Jim Bishop


Webradio said...

Hello !

La photo est jolie mais Ton texte n'est pas optimiste...

Elle est de qui la dernière phrase ?

Webradio said...

I'm only asking :

Who says the last quote ?

Unknown said...

The quote was by Jim Bishop, an American journalist.

Thanks for visiting, webradio.

nutart said...

when I was 23 years old i just wanted to be 40 years old so i can tell off the people what I think. Now that I'm 40-something I wish I would be 60 years old to really tell them off---but then they'd all be in their 90s (hehe).
Once a classmate of mine asked me what I would be 20 years from now. I said "I dunno." She countered I would just be a failure. 20 years have past, we met again here in my present house overlooking the sea. She was constantly checking her celphone...said she's a busy woman. I said (while pouring her some tea) "that's good."

Señor Enrique said...

Very nice thoughts, Luna.

escape said...

if that'll happen. ill just ask my family to bring me to an island with white sand beach. ill pray and talk to each of the family member and write something for my friends.

then ill die peacefully.

Unknown said...

thank you, Eric.:D

Unknown said...

we have our individual definition of what success means, bernadette. some would equate success with a simple quiet life, and some would think of themselves as failures when he has a BMW Convertible and the neighbor has a Mercedes-Benz McLaren.:D

Unknown said...

that's what we all wish for, dong...a peaceful death. unfortunately, that is something we have no control over. but i believe that a person who lives a full life is prepared to die anytime.

nutart said...

as to the BMW and Mercedes-Benz Maclaren---baka actually gusto nila personal jetplane (heehee!)kaya fail! Thanks, Luna for the thoughts!