What does it mean to truly live? Each one of the eight billion lives in this world are distinct, making it hard to consider any experience universal. But I know I can pinpoint moments in my life when I thought “this is why I’m alive.”
Don’t take this as a literal bucket list of things to do to live fulfillingly—simply consider them as events that I believe everyone can relate to, no matter how small that connection may be.
1. Ride a roller coaster.
For those of you who have a fear of roller coasters, don’t be so quick to shy away. As someone whose first experience with roller coasters ended with seven-year-old me in a puddle of tears in the middle of Hershey Park, I understand your dread more than anyone. But this is one of the few times I endorse peer pressure: let your friends push you into that hour-long line. Don’t let the fear churning deep in your stomach control you, no matter how tempting the exit looks. When the safety bar clicks into place and the coaster is slowly chugging to its peak, remember that you’re not headed towards certain death.
When you reach the top, ease your grip from the bar and let your hands fly up. For a moment, you can brush the sky with your fingertips.
When the coaster tumbles down, whipping your hair and sending your stomach tumbling, you’ll remember the feeling. Hold onto it even as the wind tries to snatch it from between your fingers.
To live is to fear but reach for the sky anyway.
2. Say “I love you” for the first time.
Remember what I said about fear? This kind will feel even worse than that from the roller coaster. It will curl up around your throat, squeezing it like a snake.
Look at the person in front of you. They’re smiling, and you know from the floating feeling building in your chest just how you feel.
When you say it, it’ll come out shaky. Don’t beat yourself up over it; it’s the first time, after all. And you know they’ll say it back, that the “I love you too” is inevitable. So who cares if you were shaky at first?
3. Say it again.
“I love you.”
It’ll still be shaky, trust me. But not as much.
Maybe you’re saying it to the same person, maybe someone different. In the end, all that matters is that you mean it. Soon the “I love you’s” will roll off your tongue.
Don’t fear; it won’t lose its meaning the way a word repeated over and over does. Each “I love you” is different. Love changes with time in the same way people do. This is why whenever you say “I love you,” it doesn’t mean the same thing as the last.
As long as the stars brighten the sky and the sun rises, you know you’ll have plenty of more opportunities to say it.
4. Be jealous.
Look at someone who has more than you—more friends, more wealth, more achievements. Feel the ugly, raw desire for what they have lash around in your head. And oh, the guilt that accompanies it, too. The recipient of this feeling that quite nearly crosses into resentment has done no wrong and yet… there is no helping it.
You will never have what they have, so why bother thinking about it? It is meant to be a comfort, but it’ll haunt you.
You’ll stare at your hands, unable to expel this feeling, and you’ll wonder if you were created this way, fated to have—to be—less.
That nasty jealousy that burns through your mind—repressing it will only make it worse. Take it into your hands, mold it, and you’ll feel a spurring ambition in its place.
5. Admire yourself in the mirror.
When you take a final look at yourself before going out for the night, pause. Notice the shape of your eyes, the slope of your nose, the curve of your posture. Brush your gaze over each part of the outfit that you picked out, from the bottom of your shoes to the top of your styled hair.
For once, don’t let yourself wonder how other people will receive and react to your appearance. Just look at yourself.
When you rise in the morning, dragging yourself out of the tempting warmth of your bed, stand in front of the mirror for a moment, just one. Not to scrutinize over your eyebags or the way your baggy clothes slouch off your body—no, just to capture this moment where you are glowing under the morning sun.
Admire yourself and everything else.