Countless studies have been conducted on individuals at the end of their lives. Whether they have reached their golden years or are battling a terminal illness, the end of life is a raw and honest time for reflection. Looking back on one’s life offers clarity that is often neglected when we are busy living out our lives without conscious thought to the reality of its end.
The end of life reveals truths offered freely to us repeatedly by those in their final act. They have given us the formula to life’s equation, yet we are too busy moving quickly and commiserating over inconsequential things (and people) that we don’t heed their warning. Humans have a tendency only to reflect backward. I suppose that makes sense because the very nature of reflection is to think deeply and carefully about a thing — and oftentimes, we have to go through it to make sense of it. We collect lived experiences, and they become a part of us, each shaping us into the person we are in this moment.
The science of reflection is to throw back light. The mirrored surface allows us to see a glimpse of ourselves in real-time. So why don’t we pause here more often to think deeply and carefully about our lives before we reach the end? When we are so busy collecting people and experiences, we don’t have the time (or need) to pause and deliberate because we are in the act of living. I hate stopping when I’m in the middle of momentum. I want this life to use me up, and if I keep moving, I’m convinced I’ll never run out of adventures. Or maybe I secretly think I can outrun death if I don’t sit still. I don’t suppose this is bad, and I am sad for those who don’t participate in their one wild and precious life.
It’s not a dress rehearsal. There is no act 2. At the curtains close, I want to look out at the audience and know I gave it my all. But I also don’t want to wait until the final scene to become conscious of all the times I wish I’d gone off script. I don’t want to waste precious energy worrying about critics’ opinions.
The day will come when you reflect upon the time wasted doing what was expected of you versus doing what you truly wanted. Looking back, you will see how much energy was expended obsessing over what others thought of you. In the final assessment, you might fully realize that you stayed in relationships that did not serve you or didn’t begin a relationship because you were scared of heartbreak. When you look back, you will see all the risks you wish you’d taken, and you will realize that the only actual failure in life is what you didn’t pursue because fear or apathy held you back. And you will realize that the people sitting in the front row of your life’s stage are the only ones who matter.
I hope this day of reflection comes before your final act so you have plenty of time to rewrite the script.