I sit in my chair, 7 miles above the Earth’s surface, flying through the troposphere at 557 miles per hour. All I can do is laugh. Because for my entire adult life, this is how I lived; high and fast. I lived this way because since childhood I’ve felt that I’d die at the age of 36.
Even though I’m a guy, I believe I’ve been blessed and cursed with what I like to call a strong woman’s intuition. As a child, mornings would greet me with what I thought were random visions buried deep inside my brain. These fragments were as real as any other memory.
What I dismissed as dreams were actually visions of my daily life that I’d experience the following day. I didn’t know how to wrap my mind around the fact that I’d dreamt my future. If you’re reading this thinking you would love the chance to know your future, I have to tell you, you’re wrong.
By the age of ten, I had woken up with the first premonition of my death. I had no details of how it would happen, but knew with an exact certainty that I wouldn’t live to see my 37th birthday. Most people would probably have dismissed these feelings, and trust me, I tried to. But, after having woken up with visions that came to fruition, I found myself not dismissing anything.
I grew older and the visions in my dreams became less frequent. I needed them to stop so that I could function. I wanted my dreams to be just that – dreams.
What stuck with me though is the thought of my death and how real that felt. I adopted a “live fast and die young” attitude. I lived with the pedal to the metal, going as fast as my body and mind could go.
Because of the certainty of my impending death, money in the bank, food in my pantry and healthy relationships took a back seat. “You can’t take that with you, Ron,” I’d tell myself, over and over and over. Occasionally, I’d slow down and refuel but soon enough I’d get back on the highway called Life and speed off again, giving no regard to anything around me. Over time, an invincibility came over me and I found myself constantly throwing caution to the wind. I just didn’t care. This mindset allowed me to accomplish many things my anxiety would have prevented. But, it also got me into some really bad situations. It’s a miracle I’ve never been arrested or resuscitated.
A few years ago I confided in someone and told them about me dying. He looked at me and said, “Well shit man, what if you don’t fucking die?!”
I was speechless. I was so convinced I knew I was going to die, I’d never entertained that maybe I was wrong.
This year, my 36th year, I have woken up every day wondering, “Is today the day I wrap my car around a telephone pole?” or “Will I drop dead in the bread aisle at Kroger and if I do who the hell is going to be strong enough to move my body?” or “What will my last thought be?”
It’s been a really shitty way to live.
Two days ago I was sitting in a cabin in Jasper, Alberta, Canada. I stared into the fire place and watched the flames dance. It was as if the fire told me to get out of my chair, throw a winter hat on my head and go for a walk in the cold rain. And that’s exactly what I did. With my head down and my eyes fixed on the slippery asphalt I felt like I needed to look up. And when I did, an elk 7 feet tall with a rack of antlers as wide as a beer truck ran out right in front of me. What followed were 2 resort employees chasing the elk with brooms and mops and flashlights, shocked that I wasn’t ripped to shreds.
All I could feel was sadness because in that moment I felt like the universe was telling me “Ron, you’re like this elk.” My soul wept like it never wept before. I was shown the most perfect symbolism of how I feel existing in this world.
Like this wild animal, I’m just doing what I consider to be natural, living in my own element. For years there have been people trying to wrangle me. I’ve felt like they want me to do what they want or what they think is best for me. I’ve been a slave to other’s desires and like the elk, I’ve just run along with it.
I found it ironic that this 700 pound animal who could rip a person in half with one swing of its antlers was running scared from two guys with janitorial supplies. But, this too is where I found myself just like the elk. Sometimes the things that cause anxiety in my life aren’t really that big a deal when examined after the fact. But in the moment, when I’m having an anxiety attack and go into “fight or flight” mode, they are.
Unlike the elk however, I’m sick of being guided by others. I’m sick of being scared. I’m tired of pretending. I am not who I am not. I am who I am and I am an artist. I need to create. I need to create for me and the world around me and I don’t care at what cost.
At that spot where my path intersected the elk’s, I died, five days before my 37th birthday. My childhood vision has become a reality.
What I failed to realize as a child is that my death at the age of 36 wasn’t going to be a physical one.
It’s time to be honest about who I am. It’s time to start living, truly living and truly loving. And the only way for me to make that happen is to die to self.
For the first time I’m excited and no longer scared, all because I’ve died, and dying felt great.