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Death has been very much on my mind recently.  I almost lost my father in a very bad motorcycle accident last year, and am lucky to have a father today.  I also purchased a motorcycle last year, prior to his accident.  It has been in storage for the winter.  The thoughts of death, time, and purpose have not.

I lie awake at night, losing sleeping, contemplating the eternal void waiting for me at any moment.  I’m an atheist, I don’t believe there is an afterlife waiting for us when our time ends.  In fact, I think that merely believing in an afterlife fundamentally devalues the time we have alive.  After all, how precious can our time among the living really be, if our death results in more life.  This life, this time, is all we have.  It is all we are.  It is the most precious thing in the world.

I’ve been lying awake contemplating the risks I take riding my motorcycle.  The effect I could have on the people in my life for what is effectively an adrenaline boost, an intangible “feeling” of freedom.  I would be lying to say that riding a motorcycle does not fundamentally scare me, even though I have chosen to mount the bike time and time again.  In fact, it is exactly that respect for the risk that makes the ride so much more personally rewarding.  But is it worth the risk?  Does riding mean so much to me that it trumps the feeling of responsibility I have for the people I care about?

I watched my family wonder whether my father would come out of his next operation alive.  Whether he’d wake up.  Whether he’d lose his leg or not.  Whether he’d have brain damage.  We all had our moments of grief.  What really slapped me across the face was the reality of how temporary life truly is.  There was a sudden influx of guilt for wasting time, and a resurgence of a crushing lack of “purpose” or “place” in the world.

I feel, at some level, that I have an internal drive to serve, if not the world, my community.  That I have some duty to the people who have gone before me to see that the next generation has it better.  Which is almost nonsensical, because I lack all feeling of community.  I have isolated myself for as long as I can remember.

I have never truly felt as if I belonged somewhere – never in school, never in the navy, never among the artistic types.  I hesitate to say I feel nomadic, but it is at least mildly accurate.  The one exception is family.  It frustrates me that I’ve been separated from my family for nearly 10 years.  Even in my personal relationships, isolation has been a theme.  I have been separated from my fiancee for the past 4 years, simply because we’ve decided my degree is that important.  The feeling of time lost, of time that could have been spent building a life with the person I love, instead of getting a piece of paper society has decided is required… it rings in my head, and it’s deafening.

I feel as if I’ve been off chasing some goal I’m not sure really exists, wasting time I could be spending developing a sense of community, serving the people I care about, and bettering the lives of others.  I have often warned people that doing things just because “that’s how it’s done” is a bullshit reason to do them, but here I am realizing I’ve only been saying “do as i say, not as i do” yet again.

Why did I join the navy?  Why am I bothering with my degree?  Why do I work for who I work for, why do I do what I do?  What should I do with my life?  Who is really part of my life?  Why does any of this matter, if it only matters to me?  Have I forsaken what community I do feel I belong to in exchange for money and personal freedom?  Is that bad?  Does good or bad even matter in this conversation?  Do these questions even have answers other than “I dunno, I just bumbled along and here I am”?

Maybe it’s the feeling that, as I approach my 30’s, that I’ve wasted nearly a 1/3 of my precious time on this planet.  But that’s not true, what experiences I have had, I’ve enjoyed.  I feel, generally speaking, “fulfilled”.  I’ve carved out success in my career, and am reasonably well educated.  I have more resources to me than a majority of people on earth.  No, not just a majority, more than 99% of people on earth.  Just in terms of money, I could be considered in the top .2% of the entire world.

It would be insulting to billions of people to suggest my privileged, successful life has somehow been a waste.  It hasn’t.  Every moment of it has been a privilege.  A privilege I still don’t fully grasp.

I was recently lucky enough to attend an acting class with a coach I had worked with years prior (I stopped attending because I moved away).  This sudden wave of belonging came over me.  It may have been a moment of nostalgia, of longing for a time when I was so busy, and so full of myself – but, I don’t think so.  In discussing, critiquing, and asking questions about the scenes presented, there was a moment of community I only experience when I’m with my fiancee, or my family.

I never particularly cared to work in the industry.  What I loved was this collective creation of not just art, but actors.  It was the experience of watching people, over the course of years, become fuller – myself included.  Why should I not throw all my time at that?  Why not fly towards a place I feel I belong?

Life’s never really that simple, though, is it.  Family is on the east coast, and Ohana on the west.  Money may not buy happiness, but it sure as shit buys comfort.  Life rushes in, reality takes over.  Giving up a cushy, well-paying job to spend more time acting feels as foolish as riding a motorcycle despite the dangers.

But Death doesn’t care, and he’s inching his way closer with every tick of the clock.  What’s really important?

How do I spend my precious time?  Which opportunities do I take at the expense of others?  Which communities do I forsake to be with others?

Tick tock tick tock.  Make a decision and live with it.

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