I was alone, stranded in the middle of a safari. The sky was painted bright orange and a soft blue – I couldn’t tell if it was sunrise or sunset.
“How did I get here?” I shook my head hard but my memories were blank. It was as if God sneezed while He was painting my destiny but smeared off a chunk of my memories.
I dusted the dirt off my body and looked around, spotting a huge parade of white elephants. There was easily three dozen of them in various sizes – one as large as a hot air balloon! “He must be the alpha male,” I murmured.
Suddenly, gunshots echoed from afar. The earth started moving. I could barely find my balance. When I finally did, two dozen panicked elephants were storming towards me!
“FUCK!” I yelled. I ducked instinctively. I was bouncing up and down on the ground like a basketball during an earthquake.
“I had a really vivid dream!!” I later WhatsApp-ed my friend, describing the white elephants and their earth shaking stomping.
“Perhaps it was not a dream,” she replied.
A strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake had just rocked Sabah and shattered Mount Kinabalu. We were to hike the mountain exactly 24 hours later. The gunshots in my dream were, in reality, the sound of shattering glasses in my room. I came very close to facing the white elephants on Mount Kinabalu.
Over a hundred of climbers are stranded at the peak of Mount Kinabalu. Some might not even survive the sub-zero temperature at night. I prayed for their safety. Had I decided to hike one day earlier, I would have been one of them. I might not come home at all.
I couldn’t help but think…“What if?”
There are only so few people and so few things that truly matter in our lives.
“I would’ve called my family to say a final goodbye if Digi had the reception at the peak,” my friend said. We had decided to spend our planned climbing weekend near the beach instead. I sipped my latte.
“My parents would’ve been so heart-broken. It would break my heart to see my parents mourn for me,” she continued. “I think it is a blessing if our parents pass before us.” It reminded me of literature I read many years ago.
It was a book on the French revolution. At their final moments, a group of revolutionist captives was lined up heading towards a Guillotine – a tall, upright frame with a weighted, angled blade is raised to the top and suspended. The captives were to be locked at the bottom of the frame, their neck directly below the blade. Public beheading was a scare tactic to suppress the revolution.
There was an innocent young girl among the captives. She did not know that death was near. As the captives approached the deadly structure, the adult revolutionists pushed the girl to the very front of the line. I didn’t understand why the adults could be so cowardly.
“It is love,” my literature teacher replied with a graceful smile.
“Because the hopelessness of seeing your loved ones die in front of you is worse than the death itself. The girl died seeing her love ones smiling at her, while her family died after seeing her beheaded. Which is more painful?” She had asked.
“What would you say to them?” My friend asked me, referring to my parents.
“I love you and thank you,” I said after a long pause.
“That’s all?” She asked.
“That’s all that matters,” I said.
There were many logistics actually, loose ends to tie up such as who gets my guitar, what’s my ATM pin number, the code to my bicycle lock, etc. Then I thought to myself, “How important are these things anyway?”
“Not really.” I came to a conclusion.
Most things in life are dispensable. There are only very few things that are truly irreplaceable. Life goes on perfectly without us most of the time. The universe is designed in such a way that it does not collapse when one of us falls, which we each will eventually.
Do you remember ever thinking, “I would just die if I don’t get to do this or that?” But yet, you are still here today, aren’t you? The distinction you did not receive, the project you screwed up, the broken hearts you endured, or even the fortune you missed out on… They always go away and when they do, you will be in pain but you will be fine.
The irony is, we tend to focus on the wrong things. Often, we spend too much time on things we thought are larger than life, but are actually quite small in the grand scheme of our lives. Yet, we devalue what is truly irreplaceable. We postpone our dreams. We let our today be someone else’s day. We live someone else’s dream because we think there is always a tomorrow.
Now let me ask you a question.
If you get to make your last phone call – would you call your family to say “I love you,” or call your enemy and say “Go fuck yourself?”. The answer is obvious, right? Then why do we tend to live most of our days calling our enemy instead of our family?
I have a friend who is always angry. He is always upset over the tiniest inconveniences and finds something in everyone to be annoyed with.
“It is not worth it. No one is affected by your anger but yourself. Why beat yourself up for nothing? Why suffer?” I asked him.
Actress Shirley MacLaine coined “20-40-60” rule.
At 20, your life revolves around an obsession of what others think of you.
At 40, you begin to not care what others think of you.
At 60, you realize that when you were 20, you really weren’t being judged by anyone but yourself.
Everyone is preoccupied with living their own life, so you should get busy living yours. As the tragic earthquake reminds all of us, any day could be our last tomorrow.
If tomorrow never came, would you be happy with your today?