“No one ever finds life worth living- one has to make it worth living” (Winston Churchill). As far as we know, each person has only one life. Although being alive can be as simple as whether one is breathing or not, it gets more complicated when you consider that having a heartbeat does not automatically signify life. The word alive is regularly misused and misunderstood. Being alive can be more than simply existing, being alive is living life as best as you can.
Beginning before 1200, the word alive has always meant “having life; living.” We’ve always been told that liveliness can be measured. Any number above zero beats per minute is confirmation of life. One must have a heartbeat, they must be breathing, they must have blood circulation, all of these things make up the foundation of life. Being alive is determined by physical characteristics. If you can breathe then you are alive. Being alive is yes or no. You can be alive or dead. There is no in between. Simply put, being alive means not being dead.
On the other hand, being alive is more than what you can see and calculate. It is not scientific but rather emotional. Living is determined by the things you do in your life. Whether it is practicing football for five hours a day in order to become an NFL player, reading all night because the sequel of your favorite book just came out, travelling to Bora Bora for the sole purpose of cliff jumping, or staying at home and binge watching a whole season of Gilmore Girls. Being alive is being happy. It is being surrounded by people that you can confide in, and having people that can confide in you. Alive is a feeling not a state, and being alive is not always as simple as yes or no. There are some days when one feels alive, and yet there are some days when one does not. Not everyone that breathes is alive, because breathing does not equal living. Instead, breathing in addition to life experiences and positive emotions results in aliveness. If you breathe, but you are not happy, then can you truly be alive?
There are many ways to describe the quality of being alive. However it is not, using your time on this Earth to put others down. One is not alive if they only focus on hurting others and not helping themselves. More often than not, this bullying comes from the inability to criticize themselves as easily as they can criticize others, the inability to recognize your faults and accept them prevents these people from truly being alive. Similarly, alive is not an excuse to risk your life, just as ‘YOLO’ is not and explanation for dumb decisions. It is possible to live life to the fullest without dancing on the edge of death. Being alive is a privilege and once it is taken for granted, it cannot be regained.
Over time, the meaning of the word alive has become less and less defined. At its start in 1200, it meant “not dead.” Its original meaning evolved to become more abstract, and in 1700 it became a synonym for “unextinguished.” This word became a term of empowerment, it was a way to describe people that would never give up. It transformed from a state of being to a state of persistence. Shortly after this rendition of the word, it started to be used to describe lively, or spirited, people. The people that were the embodiment of festivity, the people that never failed to make others happy while simultaneously making themselves happy. Alive was also commonly used to refer to the human race as a whole, For example, “There is no man alive that does not like to eat pizza.” It was used to show that we are all the same. We all breathe, and eat, and talk, and we all live. It is the one thing that all human beings have in common. We are all alive, by the simplest definition of the word. More recently, the essence of being alive, is having a purpose. One person cannot be alive if they do not have a goal in life, even if the goal is as trivial as not dying. Many people spend their whole life looking for their purpose. Sometimes, this search is all they need in order to be living, because it shows that they have not given up on life, even when they feel that life has given up on them. In the words of Bon Jovi, “You live for the fight when that’s all that you’ve got.”
My version of alive is different from everybody else’s. To me, being alive has always meant being true to myself. I know I am alive when I wake up to my favorite song, when I start to stress during the middle of a test, when I facetime my friends that live all the way in Spain, when I am sailing in the middle of Corey Lake, when I am eating a whole slice of cake from Portillo’s by myself, and when I am dancing in my bedroom to 90s hits. What makes me alive is when I am being myself, despite what others think. The less preoccupied I am with other’s opinions of me, the more alive I feel. In the future, my plan is to become a surgeon, because of this, I tend see life in a very scientific way. To me, everything can be explained by science. However, when it comes to the assurance that someone is alive it is more than biology. I can measure a person’s respiration and blood pressure yet the only way for me to find out if they are alive is by learning about their life and their experiences. Life is too complicated to define it by only physical characteristics. Emotions contribute to the evaluation of a person’s vivacity.
Many people say that aliveness is defined by the functionality of the body, but many people with a perfectly capable body do not feel alive. This is because moments and memories and emotions also play a role in whether or not a person is alive. Although every minute we breathe is a minute of life, there are only a few moments when we are alive. Many things in life seem to have an easy definition but if you look closer, their meanings are debatable. Language is built by perspective and bias and it is open to interpretation, so it is important to remember that words are constantly evolving and developing new connotations. The word alive is just one in a million of these subjective words.