I believe life is short and you never know when it is going to end; you may be alive one minute, and dead the next. This makes me want to life to the fullest and not hold back. I believe in the Latin phrase “carpe diem,” or “seize the day”.
I was first introduced to the phrase “carpe diem” while watching the TV show Gilmore Girls. It was incorporated in the storyline as the motto of a secret student society called “the Life and Death Brigade”. At the time, I did not appreciate the meaning of this motto and did not like the way this secret society was portrayed. I felt that it was just a group of college students acting recklessly by pulling crazy stunts such as bungee jumping with an umbrella. The responsible person in me dismissed them as a bunch of fictional rich kids spending their parents’ money on wild parties and stunts. As a daughter of immigrant parents who work very hard to provide for my brother and me and encourage us to do well in school, it was difficult for me to go along with the theme of the episode. Yet a small part of me did think that it was pretty cool to be in a secret society where all you do is party and have fun. Afterward, I didn’t think much about that Gilmore Girls episode or the motto. It took the early and unexpected death of my uncle to remind me of the fictional secret society, and for me to rethink the phrase “carpe diem”.
My uncle Thao was fifty-three years old when my family visited him and his family in Vietnam during our summer vacation in 2007. He looked and acted like a healthy forty-year-old man, cheerful, energetic and full of life. He was very happy to see my brother and me for the first time and pampered us during those three weeks that we stayed with his family. I loved him the very moment I met him.
Unfortunately, a couple of weeks after we departed from Vietnam, my uncle fell ill with meningitis and died in the hospital a few weeks later. I remember the exact day that he died. It was the first day of school. I let myself in the house, ready to tell my mom about the perfect first day of school. Instead, I found my mom in the living room crying painfully. She stopped long enough to tell me “Your uncle Thao died” and lost her words in tears again. Everyone in my family was devastated, especially my mom who kept on saying, and still does, “He was so healthy when we last saw him. How does someone die that quickly?” We all thought that his life was unfairly cut short and that there were so many things that he wanted to do and that we wanted to do with him. My uncle’s untimely death sparked something in me.
Ever since then, I grew to appreciate that those fictional college students didn’t waste one minute of their lives but filled them with thrills and excitements. I admired how they took advantage of their youth and didn’t waste it spending Saturday evenings at home watching movies and TV reruns. But most importantly, I remembered and pondered on the phrase “carpe diem”.
I now believe in not wasting a minute of my life. I want to spend my time having fun with family and friends because one day, I or they might not be here to celebrate the joy of living. I believe in carpe diem. I want to seize the day.
As the actor James Dean once said, “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
Seize the day.