I believe in chronic appreciation—of life, of the infinite and most of the time overlooked opportunities within it, and of the relationships we have with everyone around us.
A year and a little over six months ago, I was attending classes at Fredonia State University. I had just returned to my room on campus when I received a phone call from my mother. The first moments of this conversation were laden with anticipation, as I could hear the disturbance and shakiness in her voice, yet was unable to deduce the reason behind her troubles. I urged her to tell me what had happened, and she proceeded in telling me that my older brother had been killed in a car accident a few hours earlier. She had called me from the hospital after identifying his lifeless body.
My brother’s accident has done more than just alter the characteristics that define me as a person: It has created a sense of extroverted appreciation for my life, and for the opportunities and second chances that I’ve been given. In the eulogy and acclamation that I prepared and read at his funeral, I pronounced my dedication to live my life according to some of the very principles that defined his: (1) exhibit the affable cordiality that our mother has instilled in us; (2) be an amazing and selfless friend, which in doing so will surround me with a multitude of various personalities, morals and values, allowing me to further strengthen the comprehension I have of my own; (3) perceive life as an opportunity to make a difference, in however many lives that suits me. “Only I am holding myself back” is one of the mottos that I always try to comply to; and last, but most importantly, (4) always smile.
Although the death of my brother was extraordinarily tragic, many things have been learned and many things in my life has been positively altered from his loss that wouldn’t have been had it not happened. My family and I have always had a strong relationship, and since my brother’s death, it has only become stronger. I understand the fragility of life: it is this very characteristic that so fleetingly took my brother away from me and my family. Human life is ephemeral by nature, and should be lived to the fullest. Unlike the time prior to my brother’s death, I have become much more profound in my thinking. I attribute this profound thought as a result of his passing. For the first time in my life, I asked myself who I was, and this introspection allowed me to distinguish my core values and the morals that shape my personality. Death embodies spontaneity, making it extremely clear how important it is to cherish every moment, and to take nothing for granted. We strive to achieve, and to be happy, and we all perish in the end. And when our time expires, we only wish that our legacy lives on.
I believe in chronic appreciation: in appreciating the little things, the big things, everything. I believe that in doing so will change the world.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.