I’ve been wanting to write a post for a while, and it’s called, Things You Won’t Remember When You Die. It’s not meant to sound as disastrously bleak and suicidal as it potentially does (to be fair, you could read it as a confirmation of life’s little value). Its bluntness is intentional, however, for a completely different reason: to remind us of what’s really important while we’re here and for this sake, where we should be devoting our time.
I think that one of our biggest downfalls – not as a generation or even as humanity, but as humans individually – is our tendency to be driven by trivial, materialistic, power-centred and selfish motives. Our life purposes, or what we suppose they are, so rarely do match with the way we behave or act in our day-to-day lives.
Perhaps, we don’t think about why we’re here so much as we should. In all truth, the notion is a particularly daunting one. It’s much easier to ignore our ‘why’ than it is to deal with its uncertainty. However, if not by an aggressive title and a call to self-question, how does one suppose we trump our nature for being consumed by consumption; for prioritising our looks and our possessions, gossip and status… the plethora of useless perceptions which come with these… above love, happiness, contribution and respect?
So here it is, folks. Those things I assume we won’t remember when we die, replaced by those, instead, which I feel to be at the heart of living. Whether your opinion differs or not, here’s hoping it makes you think much the way I did whilst writing this post.
What you won’t remember: your appearance.
I don’t know much about the future, but I’ll tell you one thing I’m sure of. That through the silver gateway to Heaven, or otherwise, the black path to Hell, there’s no point at which God (for lack of a more neutral/equally-recognised term) should hand us a mirror.
“Would you look at you?” never says God. “Like, I know I created you, but seriously, you are stunning. I mean, look how much weight you lost during your teenage years! You know what made your life worthwhile? The way you always tanned and wore make-up for people. That’s a memory you’ll hold forever: that people always thought you looked great.”
I don’t believe he recalls the opposite either.
“Goodness, you had a bit of extra fat on your thighs. Why didn’t you say no to fries on the following 342 days? You really let yourself and your life down. You never had a thigh gap. What was the point?”
What you will remember: your ability to self-love.
Do you know why? Because loving yourself is more than a refusal to grab at your thighs in hatred. It is more than your state of being a size 6 or 12, having blue eyes or brown, big boobs or a six-pack. Loving yourself affects everything. It affects the way you present yourself to friends and to lovers, to employees and to strangers. Self-love is what makes us inspiring, attractive and uplifting. It’s what persuades people to give us chance and opportunity in life. Without faith in ourselves, others struggle to have faith in us. Our growth, then, relies on a life-support machine. We’re the only ones with access to the plug. Everyday, we either secure the plug or we pull at it. In other words, we choose to love who we are, the way we look and the way we act. We choose life, we choose opportunity and we choose the state of being deserving. Or, and often subconsciously, we loosen the plug. We choose self-hate and the need to improve. And so too, we choose failed confidence and missed opportunities. Where we believe it, others become assured we aren’t good enough and we aren’t ready too.
We are the energy we spread. We spread the energy we are. If we are loving and positive towards ourselves, this is what radiates off us. Choosing to love yourself is letting yourself and encouraging others to let you live to your full potential. If anything God does critique you of at the end of life, it’ll be your capacity to have done so.
What you won’t remember: your abs or your beer belly.
Do you spend three hours a day at the gym? Trusting you skip some days, that’s 1000 hours out of 4000 or so hours you’ll spend awake this year. That’s ¼ of your year spent at the gym. If God replayed the most prominent aspects of your life in a show reel, would you want 25% of it to be you working out? I’m just saying, keep things in perspective. There comes a point where you wouldn’t be proud of such “determination”.
What you will remember: the things your body allowed you to do.
I’m not saying don’t work out. I’m an absolute advocate of fitness. However, again, it’s not the appearance factor that ought to drive you in the game of fat-to-fit. It’s the ability to run, jump, skip and do. I’m asking you to choose ability, not abs. If you have the energy to wake up in the morning, to climb mountains for sunrise, to race your friends and to swim with dolphins, then, my friend, you are fit enough in this world regardless of the length of your legs and the size of your arms. If you can’t do these things, change it. But remember that fitness is nothing if you don’t use it to live, to complete and to experience. Remember why you’re trying to grow the strength, agility or endurance you are when you’re working out. Stay true to this authentic reasoning. It’ll prove life-changing.
Bodies and pictures of them will fade. Memories are forever. Seek to be fit so you may create them, and for no more than that reason. Don’t sacrifice 25% of your reel for something so minor in the scheme of life, as the way you do look.
What you won’t remember: the money you came from, came into or lacked altogether.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but no one announces the money in your bank account at your christening. No one announces what’s left at your funeral. Frankly, what you earn in life in a monetary sense is the most trivial of all trivia there is – to capitalism, and to existence as an entire concept. Whether you had a lavish childhood or monthly vacations, you ought not to waste your time seeing this becomes common knowledge. Why? Because here is …
What you will remember: the places you went and the person you became despite money and status.
People don’t win things like nobel prizes posthumously because they had a lot of money in their back account, or because they were Elvis Presley’s daughter, or because they were a lawyer as opposed to a rubbish collector. People are recognised after they pass for their determination, their humble nature, the way they gave to others, and their quality for being kind in this world.
At the end of the day, money in all its forms shall disappear. The way you valued it when it existed, this will be lasting. So value money for the things it helps you and others do and see. But never, ever see it as a currency of education, intelligence or status. Some of the richest people you’ll ever meet will also double as the least clever, the least kind and the least worthy of honour.
It doesn’t matter. Your reel is not titled ‘doctor’ or ‘waitress’. It is not categorised by the success of your career or the money you earned. Written on it is just your name. And inside it, is your contribution. Up in the sky, there is no concept of weight. So a doctor’s contribution is the same as that of a waitress. So long as you gave what you could, it does not matter how nor the status or means you got in return. Don’t waste your time talking about money or seeking status if your work is not something you value exclusive of a false sense of reputation. This too will fade in time.
What you won’t remember: How you made all the ‘right’ decisions.
Perfectionism is unmemorable. Remember that head girl at school who strove for absolute accuracy? Remember how you despised her for being everything your private school wanted? That’s right. Perfectionism is boring. You won’t remember the times you went to bed early, when you stayed in because it was raining, or kept quiet because you weren’t supposed to speak.
What you will remember: How you learnt from your mistakes.
First thing’s first, I don’t believe that God keeps a scoreboard. I don’t think that our entry into heaven or hell is deciphered by the amount of tallies we have beside our names. It is not about how many mistakes we make in this life – it is inevitable that we will make many. The way these will be characterised, we cannot predict. It will not always be obvious to us which path is correct to take. In fact, sometimes our choices will be driven by a drunk sense of instinct.
We won’t remember the every time we made a mistake. We will, however, remember the way we learnt from them. So too, will others. A proud life then shall be characterised by both lies and learning to tell the truth. By acting selfishly prior to our growing self-less. By being judgemental before we learn it is not right to judge. Value your mistakes for they drive growth and development. But value the path you take after them even more. At the end of the day, life will throw at you many things. These things will be less memorable than the way you do tend to them.
What you won’t remember: Who people thought you were.
To focus on rumours or suspicions or gossip is a waste of time. To try convince people of who you are is much the same. People will think what they want to think, conclude what they desire to conclude. If this be spoilt, rude, kind or funny, let that be their thoughts of you. People have a lot of them, 75% of which needn’t always be shared. Do not focus on them.
What you will remember: Who you really were.
If God does show a reel of your life – which he/she sure as hell should – it shan’t be characterised by people’s opinions of you. It’ll display instead the way you really behaved, enacted and interacted.
Do remember that strangers or acquaintances or mutual friends or Instagram followers will not be at your funeral anyway. It’s your family and friends who will speak eulogies about you. These people know who you are and at the end of the day, that’s what counts. Don’t waste a moment on anyone else’s opinion, be it limiting towards you, your potential and your self-love.
Know yourself, stay true to this character and above all (literally and figuratively), make yourself proud in this life. Don’t be afraid to ask the question: would you watch your reel and be happy with what characterises it?
Photos by Darina Mohammed
Wearing: White Wardrobe dress