I woke up this morning with the impression that I was going to die in less than half an hour. “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” I read, the notification having flashed on the screen of my phone only minutes earlier. There I was in bed, having just become a legal adult less than a month ago, and was now about to see those very precious eighteen years flash before my very eyes with my imminent death. Only last night had I been dreaming about my future, and now I was gathering in desperate fistfuls whatever I had left of my past memories.
At least, those were the thoughts that swept through my head in the beginning. I mean, along with those feelings of fear and loss, I must admit that incredulity and disbelief were also in the mix. How could this actually be happening? I asked myself. Of course, horrible disasters take place everywhere. But what was missing from the end of that question was the final phrase “to me.” How could this possibly be happening to me? Sure, I had liked to see the world as a place of beautiful chaos, a conceptual balance of supreme goodness as well as absolute terror. But somehow, with the sky falling at that moment, I couldn’t really do justice to the whole very extracted perspective of the balance in any of this turmoil.
Nonetheless, along with my fear, I also found myself laughing. Laughing because I couldn’t believe this notification could have actually been true. Laughing because, on the brink of death, the natural reaction almost always begins with denial. Laughing, because life is a comedy, and we need to live it with a sense of humor.
Only half believing the alerts, my parents and I, along with family and friends who were panicking even more so, were extremely relieved to be informed about half an hour later that it was a false alarm. Of course, it would’ve been nice to know this before so many families had said their last goodbyes and “I love you”‘s, but there’s not much to complain about when the alternative would’ve been our instantaneous demise. Being exposed to this close encounter with death, especially as I live day-to-day in my youth chasing on my hopes and dreams of the future, I have come to realize how much we take for granted in our daily life. Especially with the gift of youth, all we seem to think about is the future. Now, however, as I felt the closest to death this morning than ever before, I’ve been reminded that youth doesn’t guarantee longevity. We must all live by each day, and, although it’s cliche, we must remember to truly live life to the fullest. Because you never know when that next missile threat will really not be a drill.