Only One

January 4, 2012
I recently had an epiphany. I had felt it creeping over me for some time; brushing my cheek with its dainty fingertips, blowing on the back of my neck, sending a shudder through my body. I began absentmindedly scribbling the word “One” whenever a notepad or scrap of paper was placed before me and my hand happened to be graced with a pen.
One night, after I had returned home just shy of breaking my midnight curfew, I felt a thin layer of film that the evening had slyly deposited on my skin, and decided to take a shower to cleanse myself of the murky night. I scrubbed the back of my arms raw and massaged tea tree oil shampoo into my fatigued scalp. My fingertips wrinkled under the shower head; after rinsing them thoroughly of grime and soap, I rubbed my eyelids and blinked them open. As I watched the water create tiny rivers down my shins, I glanced at the three letters I had inscribed on my ankle: O N E. One. Everything is One. Only One. Single. Sole. One life is the time allotted.
This realization came to me so suddenly and with such a fervent intensity that I shrunk into a ball on the ground of the porcelain vessel and hugged my knees to my chest. The water repeatedly trickled on my back, turning it numb to the decreasing temperature. One life means one chance at everything. I felt quite naïve and ignorant sitting there, so confounded by this obvious and simple detail. Thoughts were spiraling inside my skull so recklessly that I began to feel light headed. “I’ve already spent the first seventeen years of my only chance at life. What if I could have done something better or different altogether? I could have put so much more effort into the activities I found burdensome at the time, but now seem to have been of paramount potential.” I shut my eyes. An image of an old woman appeared in my mind; she was lying in a nursing home, her mouth sagging to the left with the rest of her wrinkled face. This picture bore a striking resemblance to memories of visiting my grandmother before she died, except that it was my body instead of hers wrapped in white, chemically-treated sheets this time. The expression I wore on my ancient face was soft and seemed to whisper “please, make everything count. You have one chance to do it all. There is no rewind.”
The awareness of having one life didn’t force me to be a perfectionist; it caused me to examine my priorities. This insight has made me ask myself whether or not I want to recollect the hours I wasted, with my eyes and ears plastered to a screen, when reminiscing about my life, or the times I spent walking through my dad’s garden, laughing and talking to my friends about teenage love. Although this “epiphany” actually consists of knowledge commonly learned by the age of five, examining it further has given me a new appreciation for my life, and a refreshed desire to help other people transform their one life into years to be more than content with.

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