To Have Lived

Reading over the blogs posted by my classmates last week, the beautifully written pieces about ‘This I Believe’ honestly made me pause, and sit, and think. I am proud of what I wrote, no doubt, but other pieces of absolute art made me tear up and reflect introspectively. My piece was missing that certain clincher that truly made it, I’d like to think, memorable. And that is what I have decided to write about for this free choice opportunity.

Being memorable, remembered, known to have existed. To have lived.

One of my greatest fears in life is dying unhappy, dying unfulfilled. But I have come to realize, gradually, that I am more so afraid of living unhappily, unmemorable.

It is living a life of absence and unfulfillment that terrifies me and keeps me awake at night, in the dark enclosure of a silent house, feeling utterly alone yet utterly surrounded and closed in at once. In such a life, I am the broken branch of a tree that has fallen in to a river, a rushing river that moves onward, forward, towards an ocean of immortality. I am the branch stuck between rocks crafted from the whispers of uncertainty, too intimidated by the endless movement around me to consider changing my position in this place. My fear of the unknown has been surpassed by my fear of failure, so much so, I don’t know if I will ever move from this spot.

I want to be remembered. This is selfish, I know, but it is an innate human desire to want recognition. It is ingrained in our genes and our histories that we wish to be known for something, anything, before we pass on. We wish to be alive to see our faces figuratively plastered on billboards, to have our names whispered among those around us with tones of awe and reverence, to know that all our pain and struggles and heartaches did not go to waste.

I want to be happy. I hate this fear of the future that I possess, that whatever I am doing right now is completely meaningless, and I will still end up unhappy one day. That my thoughts, my opinions, my words are being screamed out in to an empty stadium that I have deluded myself into thinking would one day be filled to the brim with adoring fans.

We delude ourselves further, into believing that to be content with our lives is being happy with our lives. The difference between these two words is almost indescribable. We are content with coming in at second place – we are happy, proud, overjoyed to be first. Our dreams are ignored because they are impossible, and our thoughts are ignored because they are not relevant. I rescind what I stated earlier – it is society around us, more so, that forces us to be content. The social expectations and limits and restrictions surrounding us work against us from the beginning and create cramped boundaries, impossible to break through, which we are expected to easily approach and climb over with little to no resistance.

One of the questions my generation hates the most, understandably, is the following:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This question scares me, unbelievably so. I don’t know, I really don’t. When have I grown up? Was I pushed to grow up at the age of 11 when I was told I would be a failure if I didn’t do well in school and get a high-paying job? Am I an adult now, barely 16 years old, because I panic daily about how I am going to pay off debts that I have not yet found myself drowning in? Do I become an adult when I face my first instance of rejection, from a job, or a school, or someone I love? Despite my curious nature, I do not want to know the answers to these questions.

I want to be happy.

I want to wake up every day and fall in love with what surrounds me. I want to fall in love with the light sunshine that ushers me out of bed, with the blazing sunset that tucks me in at night with murmurs of more lovely things to come. With the smell of pine and warm fires that tell me the seasons are changing, to fall in love with the thought of a never-ending spring filled with blooming hope in the pastel shades of pinks and blues. I want to fall in love with the existence of life, of knowing my happiness will surround me as if it were a quilt constructed of hope and of joy and of eternal warmth.

When I grow up, if I am grown up, should I never grow up – I want to be happy.

The “grown-up” world is terrifying. People are stuck in jobs, stuck inside boxed-up ideals and carbon-cut suits that constrict their individuality and happiness until they go through the same routines day-by-day, on repeat, like a broken wind-up toy. They are made in a factory on conveyer-belts lined with hopelessness, by workers constructed from criticism and fear, supervised by the every-present weight of society’s expectations. I do not want to be made like this. 

Whatever I choose to do in life, I will make it memorable. I will make it a choice based on happiness. I want to have lived my life, not let it pass by me, a false sense of content blurring my ever-present desire for more until it is a passing thought in the crowded streets that run through my mind. I swear myself to this, I promise myself to this ideal.

But promises can be easily broken.

And this terrifies me.

Claire B.

When I have Fears that I May Cease to Be by John Keats
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7 thoughts on “To Have Lived

  1. Dear Claire,

    I think you captured how a lot of us have felt since middle school- completely overwhelmed and terrified of choosing a profession that will provide us with the lifestyle we crave. This really reminded me of the incredible conversation we had in class yesterday about keeping the childlike spirit inside of us, and how negativity and stress can completely overtake our lives from such a young age.

    I think you wrote really well about the question that we never really get an answer to, which is, when do we become grown ups? When does adulthood start? I think we, as teenagers, are expected to obtain a certain level of maturity when we start high school. The pressure from everyone around us for excellence in school only makes me wonder if they expect “adulthood” now. What really made me think was your last line about promises being broken. It made me reflect on how many times we promise something in a week, a month, a year, and how many of them we actually keep.

    I definitely found this piece memorable since it was so easy for me to connect with.

    With love,

    1. Dear Alysha,

      I am honoured that you have been able to connect with this piece, and I greatly appreciate this fact – you made me realize that I did not just write this for myself, as a sort of cathartic release of emotions within. I wrote this for people like you, younger and possibly even more unsure than I, and for those older than me, who experience even heavier amounts of pressure placed upon their shoulders.

      I absolutely agree with your comment about high school being a major starting point in this step towards maturity. It is unreasonable, I think, to do such a thing, as we are still growing and learning about life and heartbreak and every little thing that surrounds us. To hear that my piece mad you reflect personally brings me a huge amount of joy.

      Thank you so much for the comment!

      With love,

  2. Dear Claire-

    I am going to start off by saying that every single thing you wrote about captures exactly how I feel. Every single thing- including your fear of drowning in debt you don’t have yet. Each sentence rendered an explosion within me because I was so excited that someone understood, word for word, how I felt. So before I say anything else, I want to thank you for writing this, because reading what you wrote and knowing that you share my feelings has literally been the highlight of my school year so far.
    I struggle, at times, with my desire to be great and to mean something in the history of the world. Part of me knows that I was born to be a great writer, and therefore born to create an imprint, even a small one, in the world of literature. But at the same time, I know that I am one high school student among thousands who want to be writers just as I do. Against those odds, what can I do to be great, to be remembered? The answer that I have found, and I want to share it with you, is that I have to create my own odds. I can’t base my future on a statistic- if I want it as badly as I know I do, I will make things work for me.
    But I also have a fear that I will fail myself in this, that what I want so badly will disappear into intangible, unobtainable smoke. This is where I have to promise myself that I will do what makes me happy, and that I will not settle for anything. But as you say, promises are so easily broken. Nothing is sacred anymore.
    I loved how you established the differences between living life happily and being content with life. It’s a distinction that you would think people would be able to make, but somehow they don’t.
    But being content also means being completely and utterly satisfied, not wanting anything more for oneself. I think that for me, it would be impossible to be content- even if I were happy- because I am an ambitious person. When I achieve something, rather than celebrating, I look forwards and think, what is the next step to achieve higher? It is unfortunate; my mind is that of a perfectionist and instead of seeing the beauty in myself and my life, I always see what could be improved and then overwork myself in order to improve it. So I am skeptical as to whether a state of contentedness is even truly possible. I would be interested to hear your take on this.
    As a constructive criticism, I would have liked to see more visuals as a tool to help describe what you are trying to say. I understand that you have written about an abstract concept- which may be hard to find images for- and while I like the sonnet at the bottom, I maintain that your writing would have been all the more engaging had there been visual appeal as well as your enrapturing content.
    I also want to applaud your openness at being able to publish a piece on such personal desires and fears. Reading what you wrote, I could feel the tone you established of true belief in what you were saying… and I could feel the raw emotion attached to your diction.
    Again, thank you for writing something so brilliant and so honest. It made me so happy to read this, and I eagerly look forward to reading your later work.

    Infinite Love and Gratitude,

    1. Dear Ziyana,

      I am unbelievably humbled by your words. And I am happy, in some ways, to know that others share my worries – it brings such a complex concept floating far away from us to a place quite close to the heart. To say reading this post is one of your favourite moments of the school year so far… I cannot thank you enough.

      Regarding your query regarding contentness – I must bring up something Mrs. Hunnisett said in our Creative Writing class the other day. As you may recall, she said she was content – and she was happy. Her comment immediately brought my thoughts back to this piece.

      I believe you can be content, and in this state of content, it is completely possible to be happy. But for individuals, such as you and I, that are always searching for more, for better, for whatever may be closest to perfection, accepting content is something quite difficult to do. It is our own definitions of both ‘content’ and ‘happy’ that can change the way we deal with such circumstances – these concepts could go hand in hand, or they could be on opposite ends of our the little worlds that we place ourselves in.

      I hope, one day, we may both become happy. Or content. Quite preferably, in my eyes, both. But I will leave this thought with you, and thank you infinitely once more for such a wonderful, thoughtful, comment.

      With love,

      1. Love you both – wonderful discussion. Perhaps I’m content because I have the gift of achieving, yet loving that I keep learning, keep growing…
        LOVE, LAUGH, LEARN!!! Always!

  3. Dear Claire,

    WOW. That piece completely just blew me away. Not just the way it was conveyed, but the style and the depth; your use of rhetorical devices was absolutely wonderful. I especially loved these lines: ” I am the broken branch of a tree that has fallen in to a river, a rushing river that moves onward, forward, towards an ocean of immortality. I am the branch stuck between rocks crafted from the whispers of uncertainty, too intimidated by the endless movement around me to consider changing my position in this place.” I honestly have to say that this was one of the best parts that really made me adore this blog. The beautiful use of metaphor. For me, it’s not easy finding a meaningful and effective metaphor that relates fully to the subject. But you managed to pull it off almost effortlessly and I really admire the way you write.
    That question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, immediately fully captivated me, mostly because I can relate to it so well. I also have no clue what I want to do in the future and I often question myself as to whether I should pursue what I love or whether I should focus on a career that offers high-pay for survival sake. I would thing that you must’ve been in a lot of deep thought to write this and I would just like to say I totally agree with you.

    I would like to offer a way to further this discussion if you’re interested. Below this paragraph is a link to a blog I’ve read that directly relates with your topic. Because I have not sought out the permission of the writer, I will not reveal the identity of the author.
    I would expand a bit more on this but unfortunately I need to be at a basketball meeting right now and this comment is due before midnight.

    I should be offering you some constructive criticism in this paragraph, but honestly, I can’t. I couldn’t find anything wrong and I loved every last bit of it.
    Claire, you have already left something memorable to me. I will remember your thoughts…this blog. Thank you.

    Have a terrific weekend! ♥

  4. Dear Claire,
    First off-this is a beautiful piece. Your language is exquisite and I love it.
    And your idea…phenomenal. You wrote about something that not many people write about it for fear they may come across as selfish-as if being remembered in the history of time is such a bad thing. They all harbor that same desire, but none of them are willing to reflect on the question so beautifully as you have done.
    On the idea on growing up, I completely agree with you. I am terrified of “growing up” even though I feel I already have, even though I’m on the peak of leaving behind my teenage years and leaving a world where at least I could keep a little of my innocence.
    I would argue that the idea of being happy is one that is not just one individual’s desire, but is rather a collective idea shared throughout the millennium. How we achieve that happiness may not always be on par with other people, but it is what we believe to be true.
    “Our dreams are ignored because they are impossible, and our thoughts are ignored because they are not relevant.” Beautiful sentence, I absolutely love the contrast.
    And your last two sentences are amazing. They blew me away.
    I would only like to offer this, just from knowing you from L.A. and from Tech. last year, you seem like an amazing individual who is remembered. You’re funny and talented and I sincerely hope you will never lose that spark of passion.
    Do not be afraid of having your footprints washed away by the waves, your path will still continue further along, past the sand and onto the hearts of people.


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