Note to Self: Write before You Die

My very first book “Jeanette Aw: Definitions” was published in 2012. Thanks to the support of everyone, it was on the top of the best-selling list of all major bookstores. I was thinking of the ways to talk about my book, and I felt that this piece of writing (excerpt taken from Definitions) sums it up in just the right way.

I constantly feel that a day should really consist of more than 24 hours. There are a million and one things to do. When one task is completed, another creeps in. Instead of the to-do list getting shorter and shorter, it seems to miraculously take on a life of its own and multiply.

I am not sure about you, but I am absolutely particular about punctuality. I think it is only polite that we are on time for an appointment. I think these are basic manners. You have the prerogative to waste your own time, just do not impose on mine. That is a reasonable request, isn’t that?

Now that so many things are out of my control, I think time management is something that I can still handle, and I should handle very well. It is something that I can fully take charge of. I grew up absolutely hating to wait, but now that I have played the waiting game so often, I have developed a more patient temperament, though I must qualify that I am patient only if there is a legitimate reason for the wait.

Time took on a new meaning at a certain stage in my life. I have learnt the meaning of “the greatest thief of all is time” in the most literal sense. I have lost people I love in my life. Suddenly, just like that, they were gone. It seems as though they would be here for me, with me, for the rest of my life. But it doesn’t happen that way. Time punctuates life with a full stop when you least expect it.

I have witnessed how people lead their lives with no sense of urgency, and I panic on their behalf. I have seen how people take things for granted, and I wish I had the chance they had to make everything work out just fine. I have seen how people expect the world to wait for them, when in actual fact, they are the ones who really are left behind.

I turned 30 in 2009 and I still haven’t ceased to wonder how 30 years have passed me by. As I enter a new decade, I long to freeze it at the same time.  I am attempting to immortalize this part of my life as I embark on a new journey, this literary journey.

In fact, my new chapter began two years back, when I found a lump in my right breast. I did not know how to respond. It was just there, and I wondered why I had not felt it any earlier. It took a while before worry and fear flooded my mind. I had believed that if I were to be given the death sentence (some day, in whatever way), I would take it in my stride.

But I am no heroine. I cannot proclaim to have made any statement that would have changed the world. I was just like anyone who had to face the uncertainties of what that lump could mean. One phone call from a friend who cared and I turned instantly into water.

I went for a check-up immediately and was referred to a breast surgeon. I was told to go for an operation, and to do a biopsy to ascertain the nature of that cursed lump. All that time, from the discovery of the lump, to the check up, to the instructions of going for the operation, I was outwardly calm. As I was walking to my car, I started to cry. I was afraid of the operation. I was afraid it would leave a scar!

We live in a cosmetic world.

So there I was, telling my friend, “People are busy inserting stuff in their breasts, and here I am taking stuff out of mine when I really do not have much of them left!” Ironically, the last thing on my mind was that I might have cancer. Maybe I am really able to take death in my stride?

But truthfully, deep down, there is a fear. A fear of leaving the world, a fear of leaving behind the people I love. A fear of leaving in pain, be it physically or emotionally. Wait a minute, that is more than a single fear. Well, it just was not the grand finale I had envisioned for my life.

As it turned out, the lump was benign, it was just a cyst, which meant that I had a second chance. That was a wake up call for me, a timely reminder that life can be much more than what it is now. It is what I make of it. Life is fragile but we can be strong. I can stop procrastinating. I can re-prioritize the things that matter to me.

I wrote a note to self: please write before you die.

Quite simply, we are all playing a game with Time. These days, I prioritize my tasks and complete as many of them as I can. And yet, even as I am writing this sentence, Time could very well decide that I should end here.

Time is of the essence. Period.