“Let me not die while I am still alive.” – Sheryl Sandberg
There’s a post going around on the interwebs, a heart-wrenching snippet of love and loss, a glimpse into profound sorrow and tremendous resolve written by Sheryl Sandberg on the occasion of her husband’s 30th death day (see here https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10155617891025177&set=a.404308695176.365039.717545176&type=1&fref=nf&pnref=story).
Thoughts on the finite nature of life (of immense celestial bodies, of solar systems) creep into my consciousness on occasion, but rarely enough to inspire a dramatic change in lifestyle or a radical reconsideration of the life I lead. The fear of not living to the margins of possibility is pervasive though, humming constantly in the background like an antiquated air conditioner.
I recently picked up the
trendy manifesto on tidiness by Marie Kondo and was inspired to unearth possessions scattered and buried in different corners of my house. The process of piling together books hoarded through the slightly over two decades of my existence put into sharp relief just how little I have succeeded in becoming the future version of myself I picture in my head — the more knowledgeable, capable version of myself; the self who can speak Spanish fluently; the self who has acquired considerable and credible expertise in geopolitical topics and political economic thought. So many of the books signified aspirations — topics I had hoped to be better versed in but haven’t quite gotten around to throwing myself into. These were buried deep into the clutter, chaos and utter confusion that is my bedroom (and I suppose, by extension, my head).
The moving piece by Sheryl Sandberg demands reconsideration of the very act of living and gives pause. On an admittedly more shallow side note, for all the wisdom that loss provides, I hope to never know grief like that. There are some things in this world I would rather not understand. I hope to never know true regret. To never feel like I lived less than I could have. I realized a backward approach to figuring out some of the things I want to fill my life with could be useful: I will regret never having finished Anna Karenina; I will regret not having lived in a different part of the world at least for a little while; I will regret never learning how to speak comfortably in Spanish; I will regret not finishing documentation of my family’s travels; I will regret never having made a bigger contribution to society — not living for something greater than myself.