About three months ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. One month ago, I had surgery. Three weeks ago, I heard that the lymph nodes had been free and that my prognosis is now good.
For a few weeks, dying young became a very tangible possibility. In this very scary time, I realized a few things, that I hope I won’t forget.
I realized that time is the most precious thing that we have. Time to make mistakes, to try out things. To live somewhere for a long time. I realized how stupid I had been to be afraid of getting older, of making final decisions, of getting wrinkles and getting fat. This is life: To get older, to make decisions, even maybe blantantly wrong decisions, is all that we can hope for, and it is a luxury. I understand better now, I hope, how important it is to make those decisions, to have a one real life, instead of keeping open options. Options are not worth much in the end.
What also vexed me that I had lived with very frequent migraines last years, and being pretty unhappy about really unimportant and mostly fixable things, like not getting along with some totally unimportant people. Such a horrible waste of time! I promise myself to do anything to fight for my quality of life from now on, no matter what. I will not care if that involves letting people down, annoying people, saying no, taking pills, spending more money on therapy and making more experiments. I need to make sure I am happy because life is truly short.
I also realized that in the case I would die soon, I would not be proud of my academic achievements. Yes, I have been more successful than some other people around me in the last years, but I felt like I had left absolutely nothing of real value, and that a large portion of research carried out in my field (maybe all) was quite possibly totally meaningless to me. I have suffered quite a bit for my work, and I regretted the suffering very much.
What I wanted, however, was that some more people would have known me, liked me, would miss me and would remember me. I was desperately sorry for not having had better close relationships, having spent more time with the friends that I had. So I promise myself to try to develop better friendships and value the people I care about more. It is not easy for a somewhat closed-up person like me to do that, but I understand that this is what really counts: the relationships we have with other people.
And finally, I think I figured out what the meaning of life is for me. I think the meaning of life is enjoying a summer evening, when the ground is still warm from the sun, idly chatting with someone I like.
Now that I know this I swear I’ll never again construct myself a life that involves not being able to do just that.