Monday, November 25, 2019

Gone Too Soon

Gone Too Soon
I broke my writing streak last week, as I went home to Pittsburgh for a funeral. My good friend from high school, T, passed away suddenly. He lived in the same neighborhood as me, and we graduated together. If not for some weird last minute circumstances, he was going to be a groomsman in my wedding. He was my age: not even forty years old yet, with a daughter left behind.

The trip home was a conflicted one. The gut-wrenching feelings of seeing my friend in the casket and knowing that this would be the last time I saw him were paired with a rare reunion: getting to see all my old friends again, all in one place for once. I caught myself feeling happy at times in seeing loved ones I hadn't seen in years, and then felt guilty for feeling that way. Why should I be happy at a time like this?

I had planned on writing something on the plane, or maybe that evening when I got back. But I keep deleting the sentences that I write, even now a week later. Everything sounds wrong, and trite, and not enough.

I didn't really want to write about T. But I also am having a really hard time looking through my drafts and trying to write about personal finances, or the quirks of human decision making, or anything related to money.

"Try to Minimize Your Taxes. Or Don't. It Doesn't Really Matter."

"You May Be Paying Too Much for Investment Fees, but Who Cares When You Think About Our Mortality"

I don't know how I'm supposed to feel after saying goodbye to T, but I guess I thought there'd be some feeling of gratitude: of appreciating the life that I have and seizing the day and all that.

Instead, I find myself feeling anxious, like my life could be taken at any moment. Instead of gratitude, I feel a kind of fear.

I rode my bike the other day and thought, someone could be texting behind the wheel right now and I wouldn't even know it. They'd have no idea I was there, either, maybe let the car drift to the right, and just take me out. Is this helmet going to save me? Would they even stop to see if I was okay?

It doesn't have to be sudden, either. The doctor could find something in my bloodwork at my next physical. Cancer happens all the time, there's some history of it in my family, and the treatment often doesn't work.

My instinct is to find the something good that comes out of this. I am texting and talking to my old friends more, so that is something good. T would have liked that.

But the overriding feeling I have now is some sort of dread. Of knowing that, yes, I am going to die, and I have no idea when or how.

And it's not like I'm a very young person, or that I've never made terrible, life-risking decisions before. It could have been me in a casket by thirty nine instead of T. He was just unluckier.

There's a weird kind of nihilism creeping in to my thoughts the past couple weeks, and it makes a lot of the things I'm doing with my life seem pointless. Who cares if we reach financial independence by forty, or at all? Does it really matter if my job is stressing me out or if it's some sort of meaningful passion?

The daily stresses I find myself in, of trying to decide when we should start trying for MC Baby and coordinating our parental leave, or will the market change our plans for financial independence...I won't say they've gone away, because they haven't. They just seem absurd. I catch myself every now and again and I think, who the fuck cares? This doesn't matter. None of this matters.

This is supposed to be the place where I focus on some things that do matter, like Mrs. Done by Forty and Baby AF, and then I get some sort of meaningful catharsis and feel a bit better.

But then I start thinking about them being taken away too soon. I realize that they, too, could pass away without warning, and I have to stop thinking about it. It's one thing to think about my own mortality. But I'm not going to start thinking about theirs yet.

I keep coming back to the fact that none of us knows how much time we have left. That's the deal. It's not a great deal but it's the one we've got: I suppose the best thing to do is accept it.

Like everyone, I used to make fun of the YOLO mentality back when it was a thing a decade ago. But I begrudgingly have to admit the millennials were on to something. We really only live this one time, this one life. And it's short: we just don't know how short.

I want to wrap this up with something hopeful and good, nestled in a metaphor of a seed sprouting out of the soil or something. But that is not happening today.

The most positive thing I can say right now is that your life is precious. It's fragile. We are fragile.

Please be careful out there, friends.




*Photo is from UPSID3D0WN at Flickr Creative Commons.

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17 comments:

  1. First, I'm very sorry about your friend. That is too young! But, everything you're thinking and going through is totally natural, especially when it seems someone is gone "before their time." You can't help but think how it pertains to your own life. These experiences can serve as good reminders to take stock with what we have (and it's a lot!) and be grateful.

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    1. Thanks, Tonya. It it helpful to hear that the things I'm going through are normal and maybe even good reminders. Appreciate you.

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  2. I am so, so sorry friend. And for that little girl and his family.

    Not sure if it makes you feel better, but maybe less alone in those thoughts, but they creep into my brain often as well - and not just me, but about my loved ones too. I try not to let it steal the joy of the moment, but sometimes it hangs heavy. Likely one of the biggest reasons I’m not in a flat out sprint toward FI.

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    1. Hi there, Angela. Thanks for that comment and it definitely does help to hear that other people I know have these sort of thoughts creep in.

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  3. I am so sorry for your loss. It's so unbelievably hard, and every time it happens, I also feel shock at the loss and shock at the fact that loss never seems to get any easier.

    Life is precious. This is both thanks for the reminder and an apology that you've gotten a reminder.

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    1. Life is, for sure, very precious, Penny. I tend to take it for granted most of the time so maybe the reminder is my silver lining.

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  4. So sorry to hear about your friend. This is definitely a good reminder that life is precious. I get anxious thinking about all of the ways things could go wrong for me -- partly just because I have trouble trusting in my luck since the divorce of having a pretty great life -- so I feel ya on the anxiousness/worry front. I guess we just have to focus on not wasting the time we do have worrying about all of the things that could go wrong. Because if/when something eventually does, we'll wish we had the time back.

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    1. That's true, Abby. I think the big takeaway should be to just focus on not wasting the time we do have. I'm trying not to worry but not yet finding success.

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  5. Sorry for your loss. I think grief is crazy, and I forgot about how much it paralyzes and shows up in strange ways. Your writing helped me recognize that I'm dealing with grief in a way I hadn't recognized as such. Identifying it was helpful.

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    1. Hi Diana,

      Sorry that you are also dealing with grief but it's so nice to hear that the blog post was helpful in some way. Best of luck to you.

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  6. My condolences, D.

    I've had a preoccupation with death and death related matters because we've lost so many people too early in the past 15 years. I feel that feeling you're feeling right now a lot (#solidarity) and I have to work hard at focusing on doing positive things to remind myself more viscerally than intellectually that we are still here today and to make the most of the days we ARE given.

    That uncertainty of just having no idea when we'll go is so hard to face. It's the void, staring back at us. But I don't suppose that knowing when we'll go helps so much either. I don't imagine I would be less anxious having a set end date. It's a very weird thing. But I'm here for you if ever you need. <3

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    1. That is true, Revanche. I'm not sure knowing the day and time we'd go would be a blessing: I could see it just ruining my final years as it approached. Maybe not knowing is better than I think it is.

      Sorry to hear that you have also dealt with losing people recently, but I really appreciate you reaching out and writing to share that with me.

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  7. Condolences to you and your friend's family. When you acknowledge how difficult it would be to write about financial advice while all this was going on, I thought that point itself was a piece of financial advice too many people forget -- money isn't the only resource you need to pay attention to. Time isn't renewable and a resource to be cherished.

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    1. That's true, Caroline. Money's not our most precious resource: not even close. I suppose that folds into personal finance, too.

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  8. I am so sorry. And thank you for sharing. The pursuit of FI can feel trivial in comparison to the loss of a friend. I find myself sometimes crippled by thoughts of "what if..." The "what ifs" tend to be negative. What if I get hit by a car? What if my house catches fire? What if my job ends? Then I catch myself and try to reframe. What if I live to 110? What if I lose weight and my health is great? What if I find the location or house of my dreams and I can afford it? What if...? Take care of yourself! Give mindfulness and meditation a shot if you can.

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    1. That's good advice, Brenda. I get caught up in what ifs all the time now and I suppose it's not a great use of my mind space. I appreciate the recommendation for mindfulness: always a good idea.

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  9. So sorry to hear this news.

    It's been a tough year not for me personally, but for many of my friends and family. Five losses alone this year. I've gone decades without any loss, since I was a teenager. So now it feels sudden and too much.

    Seeing other people deal with these losses definitely changed my perspective on our cat. He was acting funny one day, not like himself. And the idea of losing him was very real. There were certain things we wouldn't let him do--like, sleep on our bed, for example, but knowing we might lose him too soon made us abandon that rule. Anyway, I'm very lucky that anyone close to me is OK, but still, it feels like a waiting game sometimes.

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