Contemplating your own mortality

The other day I finished playing basketball and I went to take a shower. I started peeing in the shower (cause I’m all for water conservation) and then I noticed BLOOD in my PEE.

So I experienced what I imagine some teenage girls experience when they first bleed from somewhere they’ve never bled from before: the thought that something was going horribly wrong and that I was going to die.

Not literally, but I did look at the pee going down the drain and think “WTF is going on!?”

So then after I showered I Google’d the hell out of it, because when I don’t understand something, I Google the hell out of it, and because that goes doubly for when I think I may be dying. Side-note: it’s interesting that we use Google to mean web search now. RIP Ask Jeeves, Altavista, Yahoo, etc.

But yea… if you ever show any strange symptoms, Googling it is pretty unhelpful. Unless you want Webmd to tell you that you are suffering from three different types of cancer.

Anyways, I found out that it was most likely due to over-exercise. I did work out or play sports for the past 5 days before that happened. It went away the next day thankfully.

But it did get me interested in posting this entry. I’ve thought about my own mortality for a while, and after reading some AMA’s on Reddit from terminally ill people my age (or younger) and after stalking some Facebook walls of high schoolers who died, I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.

As an atheist, I don’t believe there is anything after death. You die and you cease to exist. The only proof that you ever existed can only be found in other people’s memories and in physical remnants of your past. When I was younger, I never believed in an afterlife, and this made me scared of death. Growing up I felt I had limitless potential, and I feared that if I died I would never get to reach that potential. In high school I gave up that way of thinking and I instead sought to live a life with no regrets. One where I could die and people would not say that my life was cut short.

But lately I’ve realized that it’s not possible to say that. 10 year old me dying is sad, because he was seen to have the potential to be anything. People thought I was going places. 20 year old me dying is sadder, because so much was invested into my education and into developing my thought processes as a human being, that the loss of a new adult is somewhat tragic.

But current me dying? That would be sadder still. This is the realization that I have not peaked. My life has just begun. With each year I add more to my own worth as a human, so there is no way for me to die without it being considered a loss to this world. I imagine this is how it is for most people until a certain point where they cease to do anything new and slowly plateau at what’s considered their peak. I don’t want to plateau. I want to set a new peak with each coming year.

Yet still, it is only in death that the final evaluation is given. Because death is the end point of the graph of what you may be as a person.

What would you say about me if I were to die today. Would you say that you thought I was a good person? Would you say that you sorta kinda had a crush on me? Would you say that you felt I was one of the brightest minds you had met? Or would you say that I was an arrogant person who never put the blame on himself? Would you say that I talked too much and that I wasn’t as funny as I thought I was? Would you say that you felt I was lazy and I wasn’t going anywhere in life?

These are some things that people would possibly say, but at that point, I would no longer be around to hear it. We keep back our thoughts and our words if we do not know that there is an endpoint. We save up our words and post them to the Facebook wall of someone who is unable to read our messages.

How many of my friends know how I truly feel about them? They may have a good idea, but how many of them have I told in concrete terms, how exactly I felt about them? Or my family members? Very little.

What would people find out about my life through my computer and my phone, two of the things that track my personal life? They would find an unfinished life.

They would find the outline of an unwritten science-fiction graphic novel.
They would find short film and video scripts that I have never filmed.
They would find lyrics I’ve written.
They would find chords to songs I’ve practiced but never performed for anyone.
They would find the most bizarre Google search results and bookmarked sites.
They would find my terrible attempts at woo-ing girls through text.

But it’s not what they find that is the concern – it is what they wouldn’t be able to find.

They would never know the inventions and the business ideas that I have built up in my head.
They would never know how much I liked someone or how much I didn’t like someone.
And lastly they would never know my plans and wishes for my future.

And that’s a little crazy to think about.

Though I don’t plan to die any time soon, and I want the graph of my contributions to the world to continue to rise.

I plan to bring innovation and wonder to this world. I plan to bring laughter and intrigue to those who will listen to me. I plan to bring happiness to the people around me and I plan to bring love to those willing to receive it.

So if I do die, don’t mourn for my life. Mourn for what I could have brought to this world.

And if everything works out as planned and I don’t die early, stay in my life and be in awe at what I will accomplish and be there to benefit from my friendship and if some day, you feel like it, tell me about how you feel about me while I’m still alive to hear it.


  1. Teal Riege
    July 14, 2012

    Viet, I am in awe. Firstly, I had no idea that you were such an eloquent writer. 2 i cant believe that no one has actually posted a comment on this piece because it is begging for replies. There is so much to respond to! 3. the things you talk about, however personal or strange the topic, seem to intrigue me and cause me to start thinking about things in my life as well. You bring up points that I think many of us at this stage in our life are facing, and it is nice to hear about how someone else is coping with the same issues ( especially from someone who I know and admire).

    Although I feel like we never really got to know each other during our time in costa rica, I do feel like I know you (I guess that’s what spending three months straight and many brutal but amazing experiences together will do to people) and I want to respond to your post because I think you deserve it.

    If you were dying tomorrow, I would say wow, I am sad that I never got to hang out with this guy more and have more debates about life.. Because he is so in tune and just gets it you know? There are people in this world who are awake, but the vast majority to me seem asleep. Going through their daily life doing the motions, going to school, getting a job, getting a house and a wife and then working for 50 odd years, and then dying. But then there are the people like you, and I think me as well, who see the world differently. We notice little things about the idiocynchrocies (sp?) of the world, about the good and the bad and the stupid and the great.. And although we may choose to follow the typical “human trend” we know that there is more to life than being asleep. It’s taken me a while to come to terms with realizing this, and maybe part of it came from backpacking all over the world with candice, but i know it now when I meet people, and I just want to say that I see it in you. I admire your spirit, your personality, your honestness and bluntness, and I really enjoy reading your random rants about your life and the world. I know you may not have a girlfriend to tell your meaningless stories about your day to anymore, but I think blogging is a good alternative idea. I have been considering writing a book myself, mostly about my travels recently and all that I feel I have learned in the last few years as I grow up and try and learn how to “become an active member of society and this thing we call life” but I had been telling myself no, because I thought no one would be interested in reading a book just full of stories about me. But you inspire me, because I really enjoy reading about your life, even if I still only vaguely know you.
    Keep the stories coming. You ARE just as talented and funny and insightful as people tell you you are.

    • vietiscool
      July 14, 2012

      Haha thank you for your kind words and for commenting :)

      Your Asian/Australian adventure looked like such a blast! I hope I can follow in your footsteps some day and travel the world!

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