When I was a little kid, I had a lot of milestones I wanted to hit before I died. The first, of course, was having my first kiss.
At 13, I remember thinking how horrible it would be if I died before having my first kiss. After my first kiss, I decided I couldn’t possibly die before having sex because that would just be utterly tragic.
And so the list went on and on. As soon as I completed one milestone, I created another.
I remember reading or hearing about tragic events when I was a little kid but was never really affected by them. The Oklahoma City Bombing, for example, I remember seeing on TV with my mom, who was captivated and she just kept saying “Oh my gosh.”
I thought to myself, at the time, “Why does she care? It’s not like she knew these people.”
It wasn’t until September 11th, 2001, when I had just started my senior year in high school, that I ever felt really affected by a tragedy. I sobbed as I watched the news. I didn’t know these people, but it still affected me deeply.
My mom was actually set to travel to Boston for work the following week, and she would be flying in and out of the same airport that the hijackers had taken off from.
The following year, I actually went to school in Boston. It never failed to make me wonder what if the hijackers had waited a year or two? Could I have been on that plane?
Several years later, when I began my career as a journalist, I attended a September 11th anniversary event, and interviewed the father of a young woman who had been a passenger on one of the planes. After graduating from a Boston area college, she had spent the summer working at an internship and was flying home when she died at the hands of the terrorists. I maintained my composure while I interviewed the dad, but I cried as I drove home.
Life: we take it for granted when indeed it remains our most fragile possession.
In high school, I had a near-death experience where I got stuck under the pool covers. Because of the weight and suction the covers create, I couldn’t push them up. I felt like my lungs were going to burst from not having anymore air, and I really thought I was going to drown.
It’s the biggest of cliches, but I saw my life flash through my head. Images in quick millisecond bursts–goals I had accomplished, my family, how my family would find my body in the pool.
I ended up finding a gap between two covers and took the biggest breath of my life. I began to hyperventilate. I wasn’t ready to die.
After Friday’s Colorado shooting, Eric wouldn’t let me watch the news because I would start tearing up immediately. Perhaps it’s the true journalist in me that wants to devour information and always wants to be informed with all the details and all the facts. But that still doesn’t keep me from being human and often wondering–that could have been any of us, it could have been any theater in the country. You’re just watching a movie, having fun, and then bam. Lights out.
It’s when events like this happen, that I go back to my milestones. I’ve been kissed, I’ve loved and been loved, I graduated college, I’ve traveled around the world, and don’t tell my dad, but yes, I’ve had sex.
My most important milestone however was marrying Eric. Hands down, the best decision of my life, no matter how difficult things may have been and still are at times. I ask myself, had it been me in that theater, would it have been okay to die?
There are still things I want to accomplish, like becoming a mother and traveling more. But for the most part, I am absolutely happy with where I am in my life right now and what I have accomplished. Yes, it would suck to die (to put it bluntly), but it would especially suck more for the people you leave behind.
It’s when tragic events like this happen that I often question: If you died today, would it be okay? And if not, then what do you need to do to make it be okay?