As a child, I thought I was immortal. It’s common belief of children, with their underdeveloped brains. Less common I’m assuming, was my conclusion that I was the second coming of Jesus Christ*.
I was never a religious child, but during my forced church attendance, I learned that Jesus was supposed to be coming back to town, and he was due any day now. In retrospect, I may have been paraphrasing. Naturally, I wondered, “well what if he’s back already? And what if he…is me”? (My views on gender fluidity were clearly before their time)
At the age of seven I had no shortage of confidence. I saw no reason to believe that I wasn’t Jesus reincarnate. I was filled with, what I considered, timeless wisdom. I believed that I would never be smarter than I already was (because I was just so smart). And, I knew that I was immortal, evidenced by the fact that well, I was still alive.
I remember standing on the porch of my childhood townhouse in New Jersey trying to figure out once and for all if I was Jesus. I knew that if I was, I had a lot of work to do. Wars to end, Poor to feed. After much contemplation, I rationalized (this was an entirely rational process) that if I was Jesus I would have the power to do anything. I gazed upon one of the neighboring town homes and thought, “if I were Jesus I could lift that building with my pinky finger”. Knowing the limits of my prepubescent strength, I was disappointed to realize that I probably wasn’t Jesus. Just a superior child replete with infinite wisdom.
That was also the moment I realized that one day I would die.
I spent much of my subsequent childhood fascinated by death. I was constantly asserting to my poor mother that I was dying. It was technically accurate, but not what a parent wants to hear on regular basis from her strange (only) child. I was convinced that I would die young. As each year passed, pushing back my impending death date, I remained steadfast. It was coming. This all seems very odd and morbid, I’m sure. Death is not something that people like to think about in this country. We like to pretend that almost everyone lives to be 97, dying peacefully at home surrounded by tearful loved ones. Other kinds of deaths are tragic, unexpected, unfair.
The most freeing moment of my life was when I realized I was mortal. Since that day on the porch I’ve been keenly aware that you only get a certain amount of time in this world to do everything you want to do. For some people that is 100 years, for others it is much less. Not knowing how many days remain makes me ever vigilant about living my best life.
In the movie Troy, Brad Pitt utters this line:
“The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”
I don’t generally like to quote movies that I haven’t seen, especially when it’s a quote that’s widely disseminated on Pinterest boards. But that’s it. That’s the sound-byte of my strongest life force.
It’s a myth that a shark must keep swimming or it will die. But I often feel like that mythical shark. I am always plotting, planning, ideating, dreaming of something bigger than my life. Because if I stop working towards something, I fear I will start to sink. The stagnation of an average misspent life, the life I fear much more than death, will drag me to the bottom.
I’ve started to feel lately like I’m floating. Not quite sinking but not propelling forward either. Just kind of bobbing in place, trying to figure out which way to go.
But Death looms nearby (or far away, I can’t be sure, I’m not Jesus) and I can float no more. I’m going to shake things up (again) and make that seven year old weirdo proud.
Jesus may spend his days lifting houses with his finger, but this mortal has way more exciting things in store.
*Ironically I later briefly dated a man who too believed he was the second coming of Christ. It was even his e-mail address. But at the age of 23 I think that’s just considered psychosis.