How To: Experience Life When You Fear Death

Something that I’ve noticed intensely lately is that people tend to fear death. This is common knowledge of course; we ruminate on reasons why we die, reasons some of us want to die, ways others should or should not die, what happens after death, what happened before we were born (which is a similar sort of theory as death), but we don’t hold life in such intellectually high regard. It’s the most extreme case of “the grass is always greener on the other side” that I’ve ever come across.

A theological individual looks at life as it is the mode of transportation from itself. It is simply a transitional stage between nonexistence and ‘eternal life’ as it is often put. However, there are many restrictions placed on those who interpret their theological texts rigidly, preventing them from thoroughly experiencing the gift that has been given to them by the higher power they believe in. Hell is a convincing argument against ‘experiences’ that don’t follow scripture, but they don’t have to break laws, theological or secular. It all matters how one interprets their scripture (cultural interpretations definitely apply, considering how Deuteronomy 22:11 is completely irrelevant this day in age [Thou shall not wear a garment of diverse sorts, as of woolen and linen together]).

Secular individuals don’t have it much better, incidentally. Whether it’s due to believing that there is no place the soul removes itself to after death or some radical nihilistic theory, those who don’t believe in a higher power have a tendency to lose faith in existence as it is, becoming suicidal either as a result of that lost faith, or losing faith due to their suicidal tendencies. It’s a complex paradox that varies in cause and effect with each individual.

If losing faith in existence and considering ending it all isn’t the issue, an extremism of ‘living life to the fullest’ then becomes the issue – one that can become so for both the religious and secular. An overcompensation of sorts to feel or spite something in general. What we’re talking here is abuse of prescription drugs, drugs and alcohol in general, going outside one’s comfort zone in regards to sexual relations with others, or other escapist tactics that are considerably innocent in nature, such as serially binge-watching Netflix or other streaming sites (television/movies in general, really), avoiding social situations even when mentally stable or doing the opposite to avoid thinking too hard about self-care and figuring out the issues in one’s life, or partaking in other, miscellaneous, self-destructive behavior.

Well, with all of this considered, it’s probably even harder to imagine life being livable, enjoyable, or freeing, even. I challenge that. While joy is found in different ways by different individuals, I’m going to focus on the type that is specific to myself because it is what I know. Figuring out what brings a cohesiveness to your own life takes much soul searching, and will require many quiet sessions alone with yourself and your thoughts (and possibly a pen and journal if you’d like to remember what you’ve discovered).

All I’m hoping to transfer to you, reader, is inspiration, hope, and proof that life can be experienced and is out there for that purpose. I am well aware that you, as an independent entity, may not have access to the type(s) of transportation, funds, events, places, or safety that I do, and that should be considered intensively when you’re imagining and turning into a reality the recipe for your contentedness.

I present to you, my individualized recipe for experiencing life as it happens.

You will need:

  • A city (in this case, Grand Rapids).
  • Coffee shops.
  • Artistic events and aesthetically pleasing places.
  • Vinyl.
  • Intellectual/theoretical conversation.
  • Various media (online and off).
  • Opportunities to exercise.
  • Miscellaneous goods that remind one of nature when one cannot be with nature.
  • Various ways to express oneself physically.
  • Social circles varying in interests and ideals.

How to apply tactfully:

The CityIMG_9770

This is the overarching setting of the entire scheme. The aura of my individual happiness has been shaped rather strongly by the ideas and people of the urban environment, so I
think it would be more appropriate to label the city as the inspiration in this aspect and not a direct tool.

Coffee Shops

Found everywhere within the city and surrounding it, I frequent these little places – but not just for their beverages. The coffee is actually just the cherry on top. The main reason these places bring me such comfort and add to the life experience I am wishing to partake in is that they all share one similar feature: their homey-ness. All coffeeshops are fashioned like little houses (but don’t get me started on Biggby and Starbucks – they’re like the department stores of coffeehouses, everything is the same and overdone, just with extra pomp and circumstance) and the people that gather there are the kinds of people you’d invite into your actual home. They’re kind, charismatic, and if they weren’t people who I would call close friends before they frequented the shops, they’d definitely become so. It’s all about the art, the ambience, the comfort that your comrades bring you – everything.

Artistic Events and Aesthetically Pleasing Places

ArtPrize, the GRAM, LaughFest, The Downtown Market, Lookout Hill,  Pecha Kucha Night at San Chez, I could go on. The history within the museums, the stories told with the art, the people brought in internationally, the innovation and environmental support provided – it’s all so calming. Being surrounded by entrepreneurship, creative vision, and efficient uses of space gives me hope that we’re moving forward in these fields as a community. We’re missing a wide range of outspoken support for social justice groups and political activists, but that scene is beginning to grow as well.


I’m using ‘vinyl’ as an all-encompassing word for music in general. Vinyl is my favorite way to access music these days, but the most accessible music, I’ve found, is on SoundCloud. It’s how I discover songs, whereas Pandora is still how I discover new artists. 8Tracks is a wonderful app for playlists made by individual members, while YouTube is a tried and true method for accessing music you cannot otherwise. But I digress. My vinyl collection is growing, thanks to generous donations from my parents, and I now possess the following:

Born to Die – Lana Del Rey

Out of the Blue – Electric Light Orchestra

Sigh No More – Mumford and Sons

Rumours – Fleetwood Mac

Badlands – Halsey

Blue Neighbourhood – Troye Sivan

AM and Favourite Worst Nightmare – Arctic Monkeys

BlurryFace – 21 Pilots

Another One – Mac DeMarco

The physical act of taking the record out of its protective casing and placing it on the turntable is a part of the method that makes listening to vinyl so enjoyable. There is more ritual surrounding it than just placing earbuds in your ears and tapping a screen to start the sounds you want to hear. There is more dedication to listening to an entire album because it surrounds you with exactly the ideas and sounds the artist meant for you to experience.

Intellectual/Theoretical ConversationIMG_9778

I worded this exactly as I have despite the admission that I realize how pretentious it sounds. Intellectual and theoretical conversation can revolve
around anything. Everything. And that’s what I want it to revolve around. I’m most content when I’m having a conversation about the universe that somehow shifts to a conversation regarding how everything in that said universe is either a potato or not a potato, and seeing as each potato is both that potato and not anything else, any other potato is both a potato and not that potato as well. Simply talking about why carpets are so dirty in vacuum commercials is also a welcome topic.


Various Media (Online and Off)

I have learned everything I value outside of traditional, institutional education. This is not to say that I don’t value my traditional, institutional education – it has educated me well, just as it has educated everyone else who has attended the exact same institution I do. It has inspired and allowed me to use what I’ve learned and been taught to teach myself not only academic facts and skills, but social, artistic, and the miscellaneous as well. This has all been found in magazines (not People, Seventeen, and the like, but literature that has affected me the most , such as Wall Street Journal Magazine, Lone Wolf Magazine, and –  recently – Darling. They all cover world issues, while including self-care tips and inspiration both to become more artistic and more productive, whether in business, one’s personal life, or within a variance of other trades and careers), in online and print articles, from life experiences of others, and through events I’ve attended that have helped shed light on the human condition and the conditions that affect the extremity of said condition. Analysis of art – contemporary, traditional, of quality or otherwise – helps me understand the mindset of both the individual who created the piece, but also their surrounding social, political, and personal environment.


Opportunities to Exercise

Fact: Endorphins are ten times more addictive than cocaine and I am a self-proclaimed addict. Yoga is, indeed, everything you’ve already heard that it is. It’s centering, calming, and it blows away all your worries for as long as you’re in class and for quite awhile afterward. I do go on indefinite endorphin cleanses, which I regret when I get back into my addiction, but I tend to wear my body and motivation out after going endorphin crazy for a few months. These days, I’ve taken to a repeating three-day-circuit beginning with an average of a five-mile walk/run, followed by arm day, which is then succeeded by core day. I give myself about one or two rest days in between just to let myself settle physically and mentally. Sometimes these rest days last a couple months before my body and mind are completely ready to begin again.

Miscellaneous Goods That Remind One of Nature When One Cannot Be With Nature

This is pretty vague, I’ll give you that. When I say ‘miscellaneous goods,’ I am not referring to the hyper-sketchy paraphernalia you may be thinking of (although… dudes in charge of legislation, legalize that stuff. Let’s go. It’s 2016 and you’re letting people smoke water. There are no benefits to that, just people consciously inhaling vapors and causing themselves to become higher risk individuals for unknown side effects. These other substances that just happen to be illegal can actually aid in ailments if used correctly), I’m talking about small, handheld houseplants, incense, candles, and rocks/minerals. Small plants, like vinyl, give a minute sense of responsibility, but it isn’t over anything with a beating heart, so you don’t have to worry about under- or over-watering something to the point that it falters and its nonexistent heart stops. Kinda morbid, for which I do apologize, but yes, they look nice, they can smell nice, and they’re a small responsibility to keep your mind off things, just not so much that it has the ability to stress you out. Incense and candles each have the same affect that the other does, but it depends on your preference for either open flame or simply cinders and smoke. Scent has the incredible ability to bring back memories and create them, so depending on your intent, you can bring back a fond memory in your life or purposefully situate yourself in a content space with a scent and positive thinking. Rocks and minerals apparently have different psychological capabilities, but I have yet to research those, so I keep them around for aesthetic purposes. TL;DR: slabs of compacted earth are cool.

Various Ways to Express Oneself Physically

I despise the idea that cosmetics and fashion are used solely  IMG_9619to attract a partner, which is something I have ideated upon in a past entry,so it must come as little surprise that I find these to be fantastic ways to visually express oneself to others. Whether it’s with purple eyebrows, hair cut close to my head, or wearing sweatpants to a fancy dinner (if mom doesn’t notice), nine times out of ten I will be dressed close to my mood and social/intellectual/creative capacity for the day. It takes less confidence to dress in order to express yourself, and more comfort with and in yourself to do so. It takes internal power and a lot of convincing/soul searching of yourself for yourself to dress true to you, but hell, it’s sure worth it.

Social Circles Varying in Interests and Ideals 

One of the most important and influential factors in my contentedness is, hands down, keeping my social circles in variance. I’m struggling, but trying to, add more conservatively drawn individuals into my lines of communication just so that I’m able to communicate and interact effectively with people who don’t necessarily share the same ideals I do. It’s a struggle, because I’m not sure if my views are off-putting to them enough to make them refrain from wishing to continue our acquaintance and possibly further it in order to create a better understanding of each other, but it’s also an issue when you are set in your views and another human being with valid thoughts has thoughts that contradict yours… and they’re – dare I say it…? – just as valid. Just because I don’t like another person’s values and beliefs doesn’t make them less of a person. If they’re too extreme in a reactionary or radical sense, I may limit my interactions with them, but I am making attempts to break into that sector of society.

I’ve gotten views (which are nowhere near experiences to those that are foreign to me, but it’s the best I’ll receive) into the worlds of mind-altering substances, athletics, sexual assault, other continents, poverty, neuro-typicality and atypicality, excess, single parents, divorced parents, married parents, teen mothers, racism, physical abuse, and I’ve known individuals who have worked three jobs while attending school full time.

These incredible human beings help increase the range of my view of the world and help me solidify my place in it. What more could contribute to a satisfactory life experience?

If you have yet to find something that tickles your fancy, fear not my young apprentice, for we are not the same. My mother finds contentedness in my brother and I; she had wanted kids since age eight and she’s been a mother since age 34. The waiting, no doubt, made having children an even more monumental event for her, but I’m not quite sure that sort of thing is up my alley – at least at this point in my life. She also believes that pets enhance her experience of the world (cats, namely), and I have yet to be on my own and financially stable enough to own a pet, so I cannot add that to my list.

Once again, I urge you to take a writing utensil, take some time to scribe down yourself on paper and/or make sure you have the proper items on hand at all times so that when you feel inspired you can remind yourself of what makes your life experience just a little more complete.

Go forth, young apprentice, and feel a little more complete.

Much love,

Quinn ❤


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