*Just so you know, this is going to get kind of deep and serious. So if you’re looking for fun jokey jokes and giggles, they will be few and far between here.
I had a dream recently in which I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and given 4 weeks to live. I found this ironic because my thyroid was the first thing to give up when I was only 9, which has given me a life lacking energy and the kind of body you keep clothed at all times. But in my dream, after almost 20 years enough was enough and my thyroid had decided to take the rest of the body with it rather than wait around for another 40-50 years for me to die naturally. I don’t even know if thyroid cancer kills people, but in my dream it was pretty insistent.
The strange part about dreaming of my impending death is that I remember being serenely okay with it. I didn’t quit my job (because I’m the kind of person who would stick around to help train my replacement). I didn’t get super depressed. I didn’t go on some huge final bucket list trip to see and do all the things I ever wanted to do. For a moment, I considered visiting my exes to say one final goodbye as a way for them to count their blessings for not staying with me, but decided against it because I didn’t want any gut-wrenching experiences in my final days. I figured they’d find out eventually and sort out their emotions on their own. I realize this is really stupid, but sometimes dreams are stupid.
I did, however, make time to do the things that made me happy. I went and saw waterfalls. I ate my favorite foods. I spent time with my family because what friends I had were all busy with their own families. That was it. I wasn’t scared. I was a little bummed out, sure, but I realized pretty quickly that my story was going to end differently than what I expected.
That’s what made it all okay. I was fine with my life story ending differently than most everyone else’s. I had experienced a lot – more than others, even. I had seen a lot of cool things. I’d witnessed a Triple Crown winner. I’d flown in an airplane. I’d graduated college. I’d experienced births and deaths. It was sufficient. Sure I hadn’t experienced as much as others, either. I hadn’t had kids, gotten married, visited other countries and cultures, or received my first Social Security check. But that didn’t seem to bother me much.
I think we all get to a point where death isn’t scary. As kids its terrifying because we imagine it hurting or being old, senile, miserable and a burden to our family. But once you’ve experienced a few things or reached a point in your life where you’re happy with yourself (or at least accepting of your situation), then it just seems like it’s another thing you’re prepared for, like a prostate exam or filing your taxes – sure it’s unpleasant but it’s going to happen anyway.
In the end, I didn’t get to the point of dying in my dream (because that means you die in real life, right?). I just remember driving off, literally, into the sunset like some hokey, sentimental movie. Normally something like this would be a wake up call to the people who rely on signs and symbols to make wholesale life changes and better themselves. Not me because I’m a jerk. It actually surprised me in that I realized I’m happy with my life. Was it perfect? No. But I didn’t feel like I was on the wrong path. I was doing what made me happy. And if that means I die at 30 because my thyroid can’t handle sitting in my neck doing nothing, then so be it.