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The Autumn of Life

Updated: May 5, 2023

Life's Game

Wednesday, March 8th, 2023


All my life I’ve been called “too much.” Too deep. Too reflective. Too overthoughtful. Too nice.

I’m well aware my love for contemplation and contingencies likely stems from something we so easily chalk up to “overthinking,” but this curse of mine has proven to draw a fine line between my peers and me. While I’ve always dreamed of an abrupt and acute conformity to normalcy, I believe my mind is changing.

A piece of me may still wish to be like them, but I can feel it starting to fade. Sure, it must be nice to traverse through life without a single care or a worry in the world. It must be nice to only look forward to having a good time with something as simple as a smoke, a drink, or a one-night stand. It must be nice to only worry about the satisfaction you’ll receive, rather than that of which you’ll ever give.

See, I don’t want any of that—not a single shred of it. I simply wish to speak with someone who understands, but there are so few, if any at all. If only I could sit below the stars and attempt to unravel life’s intricacies with someone who might be able to connect, I’d be wholeheartedly content.

Apparently, though, that’s too much to ask. We’re too focused on what’s between people’s legs (let alone our own), and we’re too frightened to speak our minds or, worse, to think too hard.

People give me advice to, “Just be you, but also put on a mask—one that’s murky but not too murky; clear but not too clear. Just be yourself but camouflage it well. Just hide your honesty because it makes people uncomfortable. Just don’t talk about deep subjects, God forbid your feelings, because no one wants to think about those things—they want to think about themselves. Just play the game,” they say to me.

What kind of life is that? So barren and contradictory.

I’d much rather be myself and have people shy away from me than coast through life pretending to be that which I’m not until I’m horrified of what I’ve become. The pain behind wearing a mask is not worth the illusion of acceptance.

There was a time when I would give anything to be the asshole they still want me to be. To walk the fine line between confidence and arrogance which people salivate over and gravitate toward—the type they throw themselves at, whether with their bodies or their attention. The one who excites them instead of bores them or makes them laugh instead of think … Thank God my mind is changing.

Perhaps it’s not that I’m too much, but that everyone else is simply too little.

I’ve noticed people will go their entire lives searching for someone else who might heal their wounds, but I don’t think they can see they’re the only ones who can. I understand why they play the game so eagerly, then, especially when I can map out what life most likely keeps in store for us.

After all the partying and sleeping around, it’ll be time to grow up. We’ll find a stable job and, as we grow older, we won’t notice as our priorities and bills surmount like a tsunami, or our time drift away with the receding tides.

There will be conflict and pain just as much as joy and the mundane. There will be hardships, the likes of which we cannot even begin to imagine, but life is a crucible, and it ought to be treated as one. Things like money and marital problems, loneliness, sickness, drama, and death might shock us, but that’s alright, because what is life if not an amalgam of reactions to problems in which we cannot control?

Whether through deliberate planning or surprise, we’ll likely start a family as stability blossoms. We’ll watch our children grow, fail, succeed, hurt, enjoy, and leave the nest. Most of us will relish every moment of that piece of our lives, even in the roughest of times and especially in retrospect.

The money we begin to accumulate over the years will probably provide our families with everything they could need and more. We’ll spend our excess capital and our vacation days to take a break at the beach or the mountains a few times a year. With the utility of loans and debt, we’ll be able to purchase the expensive items that make our pupils dilate and our skin gloss with goosebumps. Although only for a few months at most, those items might give us some sense of lively satisfaction until the next product seizes our attention.

For many, our marriages and relationships will splinter and degrade over time, while for a few they’ll become stronger and more fulfilling. Whichever outcome reaches fruition depends solely on our choices; something of which few will ever actively comprehend.

Halfway through, we’ll perceive that familiar wane of age in the mirror, forcing terror to seize our spines. We’ll envy the youth of the young for a good long while, and we’ll look back at what we could’ve done differently, or what we ought to do in the moment to try to remember the feeling of what it was like to live.

Though, we won’t recognize our conflation of “living” with the lack of responsibility and the freedom from consequence that inherently comes with youth.

Any reminder of our age will sting us, so we’ll indulge in the recollection of our twenties and early thirties. We’ll reminisce as far back as our high school days, but especially our college ones, as we feel the aches in our joints and the soreness in our muscles. We’ll remember the shapes we were in, the abilities we had, the fewer wrinkles, the lighter weight, the distinct muscles, the fun nights, and the attention we received, and we’ll desperately wish to go back to those times—those times of simplicity, energy, excitement, and constant comfort and pleasure.

This retroactive review will shape our conversations with others, as we pine for validation of our past, younger selves. For a little while, we’ll believe drinking, partying, and sleeping around like we used to might reignite that spark in our hearts that we didn’t notice dwindle with time and from years' worth of pain, exhaustion, and stress.

A feeling of reaching out, hopelessly grasping at something which will always remain at our fingertips, will frighten us to the point of unnerving discomfort. In search of distraction, we’ll recognize that alcohol and one-night stands won't carry the same weight or satisfaction and take much heavier tolls than in our youth. However, we’ll likely still attempt to employ them as coping mechanisms to stave off against the thought of Death, nonetheless. Those of us who are wiser might use deliberate contemplation and our creativity or hobbies to confront that fear instead, but most will nevertheless prefer easier methods.

Once we realize drugs, loveless sex, or products won’t rekindle that fire in our hearts, our nerves will calm. Perhaps taking years, if not decades, a tranquility will glide over consciences. Soon after, we’ll focus on the more valuable things in our lives such as our emotional connections, but a small twinge of the fear of Death will always remain.

Whether our relationships were preserved properly or not, our focus and energy will shift to them heavily. Our minds will not allow loneliness to become an option for our futures. Regardless of if reconciliation or the creation of new connections is required, we’ll make certain at least one relationship is stable, particularly if we don’t have any.

As the dread subsides and in the midst of our mind’s reconfiguration toward emotional ties, surprise will strike us when we realize we’ve worked for forty years, if not many more; whether that’s from maintaining a job, a marriage, a relationship, or within parenthood. Irrespective of the occupation, we’ll wonder where all our time went and why it flashed by us so quickly without even the consideration of letting us know of its great haste.

In due course, our children will have families of their own and we’ll be grateful for it. Eventually, we’ll retire and wish to spend as much time as we can with our families. Outside of their company, boredom will frighten us, commanding the pursuance of anything that could keep our minds active; for if they’re not, we’ll know the thoughts of Death linger not far behind.

Unfortunately for many, our minds and bodies will falter with enough years, and we’ll grow sick. Our brains will merge memories and our bones will tire. Time itself, however, will drift, as those we hold close begin to gravitate toward us more and more. The storms of life will abate, and we’ll coast in calm, soothing waters as acceptance sets in. Along with it, that sliver of fear might dull up until our very last, final few moments. We’ll cherish life and our loved ones as much as our hearts will allow near the end.

Finally, we’ll live out the autumn of our lives with as many people around us as possible. This wholehearted endeavor—this plea for connection—will be a human attempt to share in the fear of the unknown with those we love most until we go back to the dirt from which we were created. And like slowly covering a candle, the light in our hearts will go out and the warmth of its flame will vanish.

That’s life—joy, pain, excitement, and terror in all. It makes me wonder if they’ve ever taken the time to consider it.

I see the board on which we all stand. I see our moves and tactics, whether strategic or impulsive. I see now they’re simply playing the game how it ought to be played. They’re trying to feel something before the rest of life and its next few stages set in, if only to be able to reminisce in the future.

They’re trying to live.

I sincerely wish I could play the game like them, but the more they show me who they are, their weak, frightening masks, and their tactics to achieve this illusory, unsatisfying feeling of “living,” the less I find myself wasting my time longing to be like them.

I do wonder why I feel as if I’m the one who’s been living, and everyone else seems to be dying. I’m not sure, but the game of life they play and the one I play are much different. So much so, it almost makes me want to thank them.

Translation I: Not every day is soaked in elation or moments worth remembering. Don't allow monotony to steal all your time away from right under your feet. Every now and then, actively and consciously breathe in life, because its game will not last forever.

Translation II: Too much pleasure, and it will lose its vigor. Like happiness cannot exist without sadness, pleasure cannot exist without the mundane.

Translation III: It will be difficult but try not to confuse life and its profound meanings and feelings with the absence of responsibility and consequence that's associated with youth—there's simply more to it than that. And when our time comes of our great envy of the young, we must remember that the past is meant to learn from, not live in.

Translation IV: There's a balance among reminiscing of the past, enjoying the present, and preparing for the future. too much or too little of one or another, and time will slip through our grasp like salt, sand, or silk in our hands.

Translation V: If you'd like a fulfilling life throughout its entire timeline, kindle your emotions and their connections carefully. Things like love can be fallen in and out of, and familial or friendly relations can fade. With sheer time and enough constant stress from priority management, and we'd likely not notice when they falter, let alone buckle. That does not mean, however, that they ought to be given up on when times prove difficult. It's up to us to maintain them with correct amounts of energy and care. After all, our connections will be the only thing that hands us off to Death in the end. Remember that, as anything material or physically pleasurable will not follow.

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