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Birthday: Life, Death, and Existence

“If I die young

Bury me in satin

Lay me down on a bed of roses

Sink me in the river at dawn

Send me away with the words of a love song”

For some reason, I’ve been touched deeply by this song, and it has been my earworm and my “goal” song to sing well for the past few days. it is also quite an ironic song for me to sing or really indulge myself in given my situation. Who am I leaving this dying message to? Will anyone even listen? I’m not even in the at-risk population of the Covid-19 that I need to even think about death right now even.

However, on the other hand, the song also begs me to think: Do I even have someone that I would want to leave this message to? Do I even have a person that would care enough to listen to this message for me? For whom would I be considered “die young”? The concept of “love song” is quite romantic, but will I ever deserve that?

This month marks my 28th birthday. It is my first-ever birthday to eventually celebrate properly in a while. Over the past few years, I have been pretty much engulfing myself in works or something else. Birthday used to be just another day of working and finding something today. The only special few things are perhaps looking and responding to my Facebook or social media messages and saying to myself “this is just another day”.

This year, after having been indulged myself in the song for a while, I started to wonder about the words Life, Death, and Existence.

Birthday has been widely recognized as a celebration of “life” – the birth of new life into the world. How many years since then? How many years have you been “alive” on this planet? At this moment, after a few conservations with some of my friends, I have also started to think of another set of questions:

How many years have you actually enjoy life?

How many years have you felt truly alive?

Do living and being truly alive physically, mentally, and emotionally meant the same thing?

After many years of hardworking and some degrees of academic achievements, I have always felt mentally alive. I’m challenged intellectually by my works. I have also been quite physically alive through exercises over the recent years. My physical transformation has also been a physical livelihood uplift. However, I wonder about my emotional state. People say you can be happy because of intellectual challenges and physical healthiness. Is it true? Have I been happy? Or have I been lying to myself that I have been happy?

I have witnessed two deaths of my family members right before my eyes. One is my grandmother. Another is my own mother. Being born into a Buddhist family and being educated to a certain degree of Buddhist philosophy, I have been quite familiar with the concept of awareness of “death”. Having once considered committing suicide and experienced many major accidents, the word “death” has also been quite close to me.

The reason why the word has struck me at this moment is that I started to ask myself: If life and living are no longer that appealing, what is the alternative?” The easiest answer to that question is death – a loud and profound answer.

“A penny for my thoughts, oh no

I’ll sell them for a dollar

They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner

And maybe you’ll hear, the words I’ve been singing

It’s funny when you’re dead how people start listening.”

The latter part of the same song was loud and clear in my head. To me, the thoughts, the words, and the songs need not be wise words, but rather an outcry about unresolved injustice, the message wished to be heard by someone far away, or even a cry for help that was never been paid attention until the cold body was found – or will it? And what will people do with it?

To other people, the discussion about death during such a happy occasion as a birthday is rather odd. However, if you think about the answer to the earlier questions and realized such a questionable or “interesting” response, why is the alternative not interesting? For some, the only way out is to create your own alternative path.

On the other hand, as an economist and a finance-educated person, the concept of opportunity costs or “what if” exists. For those happy crowds, this is “risk” – when everything may turn upside down. For those depressing peeps, like me, this is “hope” – a wish that tomorrow or the future will be better. How many “what if”, “hopes”, or “wishes” do I have? A lot. How many do you think will come true? Maybe not many…

Then why live? The answer to that question reveals that there is another option lying between Life and Death – Existence.

To me, the word, Existence is quite neutral. I’m never truly overjoyed. I’m depressed quite a lot recently. However, I also cannot die because of so many reasons. To me, this is just existing… living in this world… making some wishes that I never know if it will come true… Still exist…

To be honest, I’m not sure if this is a bad thing, a good thing, or a neutral thing. At this stage, I can smile and laugh, but may not be truly happy. I can sink deep into a depressive state, but after writing out, singing a few songs, confiding my depression to someone, and going to bed and sleep, I may be a bit better. I’m also quite aware of my emotion and existence. But is this a good thing to be so aware that you fear your own self-reflection?

I cannot answer that question at the moment.

One thing I really do hope, and that perhaps someday the message from my current earworm will reach someone, and that whatever “last call” I make can be granted.

“If I die young

Bury me in satin

Lay me down on a bed of roses

Sink me in the river at dawn

Send me away with the words of a love song”

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