I’m afraid of dying.
It’s not that I fear the process of dying or what happens after death. It’s not that I fear there’s nothing that lies beyond this world after my body is still and cold.
My fears aren’t about the next world. My fears are about this life — a life that I haven’t yet lived. A life that I’ve half-lived, like a man sleepwalking through an experience that should be filled with love and joy and the ecstasy of mortal existence.
I’m afraid of dying before I ever really live.
I hate what my life has become. Every choice I’ve made seemed to make sense in the moment, but the choices have brought me to a place of unhappiness. Depression. Emptiness. Regret. Hurt.
I hate the experience of living the life I have created, but I don’t want to die. I love this world too much. I love what I know my life could be. And I hunger for the life that would allow me to die in peace one day — knowing I had loved and created joy for those I love.
I seem to live like a man who doesn’t want to go on living. As I’ve become less happy and more despondent about elements of my life — the life I’ve created through my choices — it’s harder to push myself to take care of my health. It’s harder to want to rise to the things I’m capable of. It’s harder to even care enough to get through each day.
But don’t mistake that for suicidal ideation. I’m desperate to live. I’m desperate for life to mean what I’ve always known it could mean. I’m desperate to be the man who God created me to be and to bring love and life to others.
But I don’t quite know how.
For weeks now, I’ve needed to go see a doctor about something which is easily treated. It’s something that won’t affect me in the least if I take care of it. But it’s something that could kill me if I ignore it.
On the way home from work, a long-time friend asked me why I was so unhappy that I would have ignored the problem so long. I scarcely knew where to start. I didn’t want to blame anybody else, because I am responsible for what I have and don’t have.
I asked him to remember what we wanted and expected when we were much younger, not just materially, but in terms of the people around us. Then I described what I expected of myself back then — what I expected my life to become — and I contrasted it with where my choices have brought me.
The gap between my realistic expectations in the past and what I’ve let myself become is painful for me. I’ve allowed myself to slip into a life which seems like some strange version of purgatory on Earth. It’s not quite living, but it’s not quite death.
Back in 1935, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger created a paradox of a cat in a box. He was trying to describe his view of quantum physics during conversations with fellow physicist Albert Einstein. He asked Einstein to imagine a box with a cat inside and then he imagined a scenario in which a random atomic action could cause the cat to be poisoned or not.
To oversimplify Schrödinger’s argument, he said that the cat was both alive and dead. The cat existed in a state of what he called “superposition.” Once you opened the box, the quantum state would “collapse” and the cat would be either dead or alive. But until a human looked, the cat was both dead and alive.
I am Schrödinger’s cat.
I’m living in this box, but it’s unclear whether I will actually live my life or die without ever having lived.
To Schrödinger and others who argued the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, it’s the action of the observer which causes the wave function to collapse into a normal space function — for one of the two quantum states to become objective truth.
I am Schrödinger’s cat.
I’m both dead and alive. I’m a failure who threw away too many opportunities or I’m the talented genius who achieves the greatness that others expected.
I can’t be both. It’s one or the other. Somebody has to open the box. The observer has to create the circumstances by which the quantum superposition collapses into one state or the other.
But I desperately want to live.
I want to be what I was made to be. I want to love and be loved. I want to create things which touch other lives and which change lives. I want to find ways to show others the beauty and possibility of what this world could be. I want to be satisfied that I found my best possible way of bringing love and light and joy to the people around me.
I don’t want to die. I also don’t want this miserable half-life and half-death. I desperately want to fully live, but I haven’t figured out how to find my way home to love and joy and peace.