The thought of death has never scared me. To me it seems like death is falling asleep but simply not waking up. The fear comes from the way we die; the uncertainty of the pain or struggle and the unsureness of if we’ve lived acceptable lives by our own standards.
My biggest fear isn’t from falling asleep and never waking, but waking up one morning, looking in the mirror, and seeing an unfamiliar face worn in wrinkled skin and a dispassionate stare wondering where the time has gone.
It’s more than simply being afraid of growing old, but rather everything it encompasses and entails, stemming from watching those around me grow old and feeble. The pillars of my development in my youth are crumbling if they haven’t collapsed already. The number of different hospitals I’ve visited now outnumbers the number of states I’ve visited. I’ve been to more funerals than I have baptisms. I’ve become comfortable and welcoming of death. As my favorite band, Rise Against, put perfectly: “It’s not the end that I fear with each breath, it’s life that scares me to death.”
My body will grow in fragility each year. The mentality of indestructability that I possess will remain until mundane tasks become noticeably more difficult or I severely injure myself attempting something my body has long since past being able to do. My memories will grow increasingly difficult to tap into, having to dig to the depths of my brain to find what once was perched on the top of my collection of recollection. I will constantly have to find new sources for joy as I grow older and those past activities that brought me joy no longer do so.
Nostalgia is a poison hindering my psyche from being able to appreciate things as they are, instead comparing any new experience or object to those from my past. Pairing with my reluctance with change, I cling to that past, and at times of insecurity or pain I turn back to the music of my childhood in an attempt to teleport myself to a simpler time when worries were miniscule and innocence was rampant.
With age comes even more worries and responsibilities. They will keep multiplying until my death. There are times when all I have to face in a normal day makes me want to run and not stop. I want to turn off my phone, leave all responsibility, and just go. And I’m just at the beginning.
My fear of aging is a culmination of a lot of things, and shows no sign of subsiding anytime soon. I don’t want to wake up not having lived the life I wanted. I don’t want to wake up and be the last of my friends. I don’t want to wake up to live years without the people who laid the foundation for who I have become and who I’ve yet to become. I don’t want to face growing responsibilities absent of any clue of how to handle them. I don’t want to wake up and not be able to do what was once effortless for me. Hundreds of millions of people have faced this life as it is with or without fear. Fear is uncomfortable, and it is so for a reason.
That reason is so we can appreciate the barrier of our fear. No one loves breathing until they can’t, and they’re fearful they never will again. No one loves the ground they walk on until they’re falling, and they’re fearful they won’t be able to again. No one loves growing up until they already have, and they know they never can again.
We only grow up once. The sinking-in of reality is difficult to overcome, but reality setting in years later is even more so. Times will never be easier than the present. The barrier for my fear is my nostalgia; I fear aging and attempt to find solace in the past. In doing so, I’m liable to miss the actual “growing up” part of life. Even if in my old age I lose the memories that molded me into who I am, I’ll still be the man I become from them. Even if I can no longer perform tasks that were my passions, I can inspire others to do so.
Growing old is learning to live differently, and I don’t like change. But I love living life.