Recently, I had the good fortune to meet a remarkable person online. I don’t know her name, I don’t know where she lives; in fact, I only know two things about her. The first is that she’s 13. The second is that she may never turn 14.
This girl is suffering from a brutal combination of illnesses: Friedreich’s ataxia, and cardiomyopathy. Unfortunately, they’re also comorbid, which means that one increases the likelihood and effectiveness of the other. She found out about her lethal cocktail of genetics when she collapsed and her best friend had to give her CPR. Because puberty wasn’t hard enough.
Because of her diseases, she can’t walk well. She can’t do most things that a typical 13 year old girl would be able to do. She says her friends have distanced themselves, not wanting to end up more hurt than they already will by her passing. Her mom, she says, keeps up a strong mask, but it’s breaking. She feels alone. And bitter. Bitter that her body betrayed her this way, and bitter that nobody seems to be able to step up and be there for her, the sufferer. So, in a desperate attempt to connect to people again, she did an AMA on reddit, where she dropped this gem:
“You are finite. Everything around you will cease to exist one day, buried under many layers of time, forgotten, never to be retrieved.
Live, knowing that you are finite. Don’t take advantage of everything around you. Live in the way that you want to, but make sure everything around you does so too. But be free in it.”
This girl has suffered more in her 13 years than many of us have in three times as long. And while this may read like a nihilistic musing of a condemned teen, I take it differently. I don’t see it as a musing on the ephemera of life, I see it as a reinforcement of our time here. Life IS finite. At some point, every one of us will die. As one artist put it:
In less than 100 years, every single one of your Facebook friends will be dead. Your life, your impact upon this planet, upon this community, cannot be measured in likes…
We can’t measure our life by how many friends we had, how many people will cry when we’re gone. If we want meaning, we have to go deeper than sharing and liking. We need to affect someone so deeply that they write about it, that they remember it, even after they’ve forgotten who it was that affected them, and we need to turn ideas that could threaten what gods there be into reality. We don’t have time on our side. You most likely have between 20 and 50 years left in your life to affect someone deeply enough that they carry it to THEIR grave and pass it on to someone else before they die. Nothing else you do matters.
Live the best you can. And let others live the best they can. Because in the end, no one will go back and look at the small things you’ve done, the bands you follow, the selfies you posted. But someday, your words can be written in stone. Someday, your actions can be recounted around a fire, to someone’s grandkids. Someday, someone else might pick up your torch and start a movement that can shake the world to its core. That someday probably won’t happen in your lifetime. But that doesn’t mean it’s not yours. On the contrary: That’s the only way you guarantee that your spirit, your message, whatever change you may enact lives on in this world.
Things don’t affect me deeply very often. I don’t write unless there’s something important to be said. Hearing this from a dying child is sobering. Don’t waste your time. Whether that means finding your grind, overcoming vice, or even just chronicling your journey to find yourself, use the minutes that you have to impact someone or something. Otherwise, you were never here, and so what’s the point?
Song of the Week: To Young Leaders, by Guante & Big Cats