Two years ago, I turned 18. My uncles and I had come back from a snowboarding trip. My entire family at my house for a massive party; my parents, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, the list goes on. We all spent the night having a good time, watching TV, eating food and cake, opening presents (well, watching me open presents). It was just a regular birthday.
By midnight, the party was over. My extended family had gone home and my parents and sister were all going to bed. I was the last one to go to sleep. Or at least, try to go to sleep.
I just couldn’t help thinking about how I was now an adult. I kept thinking to myself, “I can’t believe I’m now 18-years-old. This is awesome.”
And again. And again. And again…
That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks.
“Oh god… I’m now 18.”
At the time, I had no idea what an existential crisis was. But I most certainly didn’t forget how it felt.
My heart felt so heavy as it began to beat at a much faster pace. So much so that I thought it would just stop completely if I stopped breathing. My body laid still, while my hands clung to the sheets. I stared into the dark of night, questioning what would become of me.
Until that day, I never thought much about age or mortality. I was always too focused on family, school and other personal matters to worry about anything else. Even at some of the funerals I’ve attended, the idea of one day dying was still foreign. But that painful realization was suddenly crashing down on me.
I felt so many emotions that night. I was scared about what I should be doing next. Scared for when I would die. Scared for how I would die.
That last thought was the most popular because it wouldn’t be the last time I thought about it.
Every now and then, over the course of several months, I would have many more. My mind would play an uncountable amount of possibilities on how I’d kick the bucket.
A sudden heart attack. Suddenly stop breathing. Getting hit by a car. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. With loved ones at my death bed. Or my personal favorite, dying alone in an empty hospital room.
But what I think was the most stressful part of these existential crises, are what I would call my “final questions.” The ones that never fail to flood my brain.
“Will I have done all that I wanted in this life?” “What will I leave behind? And to whom?” “Will I have any regrets?” “What will dying feel like?”
But none of them, not one, has shaken me to my core quite like the question:
“What will happen after my death?”
I can’t express the amount of fear those six words, alone, can do to a person; especially one who’s going from being a kid to a full-fledged adult.
Two years have passed since then. I’m now 20 years old and attending El Camino College. I still experience these crises but on rare occasions. This is probably due to me maturing more within those two years and becoming more accepting of the inevitable.
I think the inevitability of death is also the reason why I want to be finished with school as soon as possible, so that I can accomplish some of the life goals I’ve yet to complete.
Things like publishing my own series of novels, becoming a professional artist, buying a house and starting a family.
But the most important of all, leave something worth leaving behind.
If I can do just that, then hopefully all my concerns will finally go away.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any physical or mental health issues, contact the ECC Student Health Services center. There, you’ll be given free services by appointment; including office visits and psychological counseling.
For more information, you can contact the Student Health Services at (310) 660-3643
Or you can visit their homepage at http://www.elcamino.edu/student/studentservices/health/