Batchelor: Making the Most of Time
By Jacob Batchelor, Staff Columnist
Published on Wednesday, May 30, 2012
A friend of a friend, a girl I never really knew, died in a car accident this past weekend, just days after graduating from Yale University.
No one ever really knows what to say when a tragedy happens because there is nothing to say, not really. It’s fucking horrible. A human has died, and that’s all there is. We can’t understand tragedy beyond that, and we don’t want to — because it reminds us of our own mortality, the losses we’ve endured, the impermanence of everything.
Just a week prior to her death, she wrote a column for the commencement issue of the Yale Daily News about the opposite of loneliness — the feeling of comfort, love and togetherness she found during her undergraduate years. She wrote about regrets and possibility, memories and the future. Of being young and having time, and how a lot of us are lost, but how that’s OK. The piece was really beautiful. And then she was gone.
I can’t write a narrative about a stranger’s death. It seems wrong, and no one can do something like that justice. But please take a moment and read her column. Think of her.
Life is fragile. We don’t think about it when we’re young and healthy and have never experienced someone dying, especially someone young, whose time shouldn’t have come so early. But life can be taken from us at any moment, in a million ways we can neither expect nor plan for. We like to think we’re here with our whole lives in front of us — and we are. But that isn’t something we should take for granted.
When I was 11, my older brother died from a heart condition that I have, too. Mine has never been as severe, but it’s always there. For most of high school and college, I took that fact as a license for escapism. I worked really hard and partied a lot. I thought to myself: I’m here and I’m alive, so I’m going to do everything and try everything. If life could end at any moment, I should just go all in. It was fun, and I didn’t have to think about things too hard.
This past winter, though, I had a problem. My new defibrillator was set wrong after a surgery and ended up shocking me a lot of times, for no real reason. During those shocks, I thought I was going to die — and I might have, I guess, had things gone another way. It scared the shit out of me. When I got back to school, things were different. I had to stop indulging, and, through that necessity, lost my ability to escape. It was really hard. I had a lot of time to think, at a time when the last thing I wanted to do was think. Life slowed down, which doesn’t happen too much here.
Some nights during that time, I concluded that everything is just overwhelmingly depressing and sad. Sometimes that’s true. Things do suck sometimes, and death happens. Tragedy happens, and we could die young and unfulfilled. But it’s in these brushes with death and mortality — when time slows down and we’re forced to confront real life — that we become intensely aware of what it means to be alive. You start to see how every moment is precious and every decision kind of profound. Since this winter, I’ve never felt more appreciative of my friends, or happy with my life, or content with just existing.
You can’t put a silver lining on death. When a life is lost, it is always tragic. But you can learn from close calls. So to my fellow seniors in particular, in your last few weeks here, realize what you have. Slow down. Take a walk outside and look at how pretty everything is. Really appreciate the love you have in your life, and don’t leave any words unsaid. Never try to escape from your life, but always dive into it with passion and feeling. Don’t waste time, unless it’s just to be and to think. Spend time with people you love. Remember those that aren’t with you.
Our whole lives are ahead of us until the moment they aren’t. Thankfully, for now they are. So make the most of it. Good luck.