Turning 30 and the fear of death

It’s become even more clear to me: time, age and yes, death, come for all of us no matter who we are or how much money we have.
death 30
The Grim Reaper stands amongst fellow Wimbledon supporters at the home end, Selhurst Park, South London. The fans released black balloons to show their dismay at the club’s proposed move to Milton Keynes in Northamptonshire. The team is playing against Birmingham City during the Nationwide Division one match. (Photo by Fiona Hanson – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Later in my life, when I succumb to a terrible disease, no one will say that I fought bravely until the end or stoically or with much dignity. That’s because I’ll spend my final days in fear howling, sobbing and quivering in a corner, all while telling the poor nurses on call that it’s not fair and demanding they must invent a cure.

Or will I?

Imagine knowing you are minutes away from death and accepting it without a fight. I turn 30 today and thankfully, I know that death won’t be here for me today. Perhaps it’ll be tomorrow. Or decades from now. No one ever truly knows how close death is and that blissful ignorance is somewhat reassuring. With that said, by the time I’m done writing this, I’ll probably go make myself a stiff drink and raise a toast to my final moments of 29, blissfully ignorant of the inevitable.

But, imagine if you knew that you were minutes away? What would you do at that moment? Unfortunately, the problem is that I think about dying. I think about it a lot, actually and it bothers me. But, not as much as it should. Not as much as I thought it would when I was sitting around in my hometown, waiting for someone or something to show me the way.

It’s not that I believe I’m going to a better place and that in this better place, I’ll be enjoying a refreshing drink with all my dead friends who died far too young. I don’t know what will happen. I know I will be in a hole where I shall rot. And I shall be there forever, or at least until a housing development decides he needs the graveyard for gentrifying more of my hometown. And then I’ll be landfill.

I think I can cope with this because of how age affects us. No one wants to die when they are young because there’s so much still to see and do. And no one wants to die when they’re old either, because actually, I don’t know why since I’m not that old yet. But, up to this point, I feel like I’ve done my bit already. I’ve started the next steps of building a family, which is all the species wants, and now I’m just sitting here consuming stuff unnecessarily. I feel like a drain, a waste of blood and organs. And I fear that I’ll also be a nuisance to those around me in no time.

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A young Evan with his father, William, near the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., the nation’s capital. Photo credit: Right Down Euclid.

Although I know the party will one day be over and when that time comes, it’ll be time to go home, I’m imprisoned by medical science. I’m forced to forge a path through uncharted waters, living a life no one in all of human history has ever led since it’s exclusively unique to me and me alone.

I like to think that I’ve amassed personal wealth over my somewhat short existence. I’ve traveled more than some and experienced more than any ever will. I’ve read many books and met many interesting people. I’ve been in the White House, met my childhood idols and have had the chance to live out my dream every day. I try to share these experiences with anyone close to me. Unfortunately, I keep my circle small, and when their eyes start to glaze over, I feel uneasy. I need to do more with my life so that I don’t feel seemingly irrelevant to anyone and everyone who matters.

With a new decade of life should come new opportunities to grow, right?

This is a tremendous thought, but what are you supposed to do when you’re supposedly entering the prime of your life and not looking forward to it? How do you fill your days when you feel you’ve outstayed your welcome and that it’d be better for everyone, and the planet if you weren’t around anymore? I know it’s cynical, but, again, having death constantly on the back of your mind can give you a somewhat nihilist worldview. As I enter the third decade of my life, I sit back and wonder, “What’s the point of it all?”

Some imagine they should spend their time traveling as much as possible. They want to see new places, smell new things and taste new food, and I can’t see the point because all you’re doing is creating memories you’ll never be able to savor. Some people try to combat the void of age by adopting the current generation’s speech patterns, clothing and views. They blare TikToks and try to stay up on the current trends; frankly, I find it exhausting trying to keep up.

Hilariously, some, myself included, go even further by trying to get fit. We join gyms, buy expensive exercise bikes and walk about in the countryside with ski poles. What’s the point? Do you really think that after a year of sweat and grunting you’ll emerge into the light looking like Chris Hemsworth? Because I know I won’t. People in gyms are chasing their youth but it’s gone. And it doesn’t matter how many downward dogs you do, it’s not coming back.

death young evan
Evan his senior year of college with two of his roommates. Akron lost to the Pittsburgh Panthers 24-7 on that rain-soaked September day. Photo credit: Right Down Euclid

All the stuff I used to think was boring is now a “lovely” way of passing the time, which is something I would’ve hated when I was younger. I’ve started going for runs. I’m debating getting a 3D printer. I’ve picked up golf. I’m trying my hand at archery and photography. Most of all, I love to garden and care for my yard and home. Especially because if you make your garden beautiful, you create a legacy lasting for hundreds of years. Unless your children are forced to pay for your stay in an old people’s home one day by selling your house to the aforementioned housing development. In this case, your cherished backbreaking labor will also be turned into a landfill.

We need to live like this because if we fill our diaries with exciting mini-breaks to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, we will only have to cancel them when one of our friends dies and it turns out the funerals that day. When people get married or turn 30, like me, the parties are planned well in advance. But funerals are always a surprise and because they play such havoc with a busy social life, it’s probably easier not to have a party. That way you’re always free to go to a funeral.

The big problem with all this time-wasting is that age is cruel. It affects us all in different ways. In early December, the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted the Los Angeles Lakers. This, of course, meant that LeBron James, one of my favorite professional athletes would be playing. Sure, he was exhilarating as always but the randomness of aging could not have been brought into sharper focus when seeing him as well.

LeBron was grey and wizened and crippled by poor roster management around him. But, that dominant edge he always seemingly carried had dulled a bit. He had been forced then, by God’s mean streak, to try and carry a hapless Lakers team, all while becoming the NBA’s all-time scoring record, and you could tell it must be irksome. Sure, it’s even clearer now with his meltdown on social media after his team couldn’t land Kyrie Irving that his time is wasted. But, in that small moment, it became even clearer to me: time, age and yes, death, come for all of us no matter who we are or how much money we have.

Evan (center) along with his brother Ryan (left) and childhood friend Kendall (right) on the night of the 2012 NBA Draft. The very friendly commentators over at cleveland.com at the time called us spoiled rich kids from Westlake due to our reaction to the Cleveland Cavaliers taking Dion Waiters with the no. 4 pick. They were far from it. Photo credit: Right Down Euclid.

How much time do we have left and what will we be able to do with it? Those are the questions. And why do these imponderables prey so heavily on our minds? I suppose it’s because we struggle to cope with blissful ignorance. When we know the end is coming, that hope is replaced by despair and somehow that’s always easier. Maybe that’s why people on their deathbeds are so calm. Or maybe it’s the opiates they’re pumped up with. That’s why we don’t know the answer to that one either.

David Bowie, however, once wrote something pertinent on the subject: “Time, he’s waiting in the wings. He speaks of senseless things. His script is you and me, boy.” He probably thought he’d be able to enjoy the royalties from this clever song in his old age. But we all know, he ran out of time and never got there.

Nevertheless, it does give me perspective on what does and doesn’t matter to me as I enter this next decade of life. I think of death so much around my birthday because I lost a childhood friend to an overdose on this day several years ago. Every day I wish I could’ve done something to change his fate and the wound left behind is still recovering. But, selfishly, that loss gave me perspective on how precious life truly is. Sure, by reading through this you more than know how much I sometimes obsess over what’s next for me through a fairly nihilistic worldview. But, at the same time, I’m thankful for what I have.

I have a family that loves me and will be marrying into one that also loves me. I have friends from so many different walks of life that enrich me every day. It keeps me steady and sometimes allows me to chuckle in the face of death. Sure, my time will come, as it will for all of us. But, as I continue to fill my life with new things and experiences, all while pushing past the general everyday pessimism, I’ll try to keep being blissfully unaware of what’s next.

It’s all I really can do.

Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at [email protected] He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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